It is a federal crime to lie about one’s citizenship status in order to receive benefits or to avoid liabilities. The punishment may include not only fines but also several years in prison.
On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys provide a legal summary of the federal crime of “citizenship fraud” in Nevada. Scroll down to learn the law, how to fight allegations, and what penalties a judge may hand down.
It is illegal under federal law for someone to intentionally lie about his/her citizenship status for the purpose of either:
- enjoying privileges that he/she is not eligible for otherwise (such as to vote), or
- escaping legal duties or obligations (such as paying taxes)
Note that lying about one’s citizenship status is criminal whether it is done orally under oath or in writing such as in a certificate of arrival, naturalization, or citizenship.
A common scenario where citizenship fraud comes into play is when a person claims to be an American citizen in order to secure employment. Boulder City criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:
Example: Sergei is a Russian citizen who moves to Reno on a VISA to be near family. He applies for citizenship, but the process is taking a long time. After having been unemployed for several months, he applies to a government job and claims to be an American citizen on the application. If Sergei is caught, the U.S. Marshals Service could take him to the Washoe County Detention Center for committing fraud by lying about his citizenship.
It is irrelevant that Sergei in the above example is in the U.S. legally on a VISA or that he is in the process of getting naturalized. Merely the act of lying about his citizenship status to try to get a job breaks federal law.
Also note that it is a crime for someone to lie about his/her citizenship status to help someone other than him/herself. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an illustration:
Example: Michel is a retired worker from Paris who moves to Henderson on a VISA to be near family. After his son loses his job, Michel applies for social security so he could give the money to his son. If he lies on his application about being an American citizen, Michel may be arrested and booked at the Henderson Detention Center for giving false information about his citizenship to obtain benefits.
The fact that Michel only wished to benefit his son and not himself does not relieve him of criminal liability. Nor does it matter that Michel’s son is an American citizen. Any lie about one’s citizenship in order to receive undeserved benefits is criminal behavior. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
As with many fraud allegations, there are two primary ways to fight citizenship fraud charges. The first is to show that there was no fraud, and the second is to show that the defendant did not intentionally commit fraud.
- No fraud. Sometimes the government gets things wrong, especially when it involves enormous bureaucracies such as the USCIS, ICE, and the DHS. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant was in the right and that the charges stem from government oversights, the case should be dismissed.
- No fraudulent intent. Courts realize that immigration is one of the most confusing areas of law. Consequently, well-meaning people may make innocent mistakes regarding their citizenship status. So long as the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant “knowingly” lied about being a citizen or not, then no crime was committed.
Depending on the circumstances, the defense attorney may consider filing a “Nevada motion to suppress evidence” asking the court to disregard any evidence discovered from illegal police activity. If the court grants the motion because it agrees that law enforcement gathered evidence unconstitutionally, the prosecution may then be left with no choice but to drop the charges for lack of proof.
The punishment in Nevada for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1015 is a sentence of:
- up to five (5) years in Federal Prison, and/or
- a fine
Arrested? Call . . . .
If you are facing federal charges in Nevada for “citizenship fraud,” call our Nevada federal criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. We will do everything to try to achieve the most favorable resolution available for your case. We are also prepared to go all the way to trial to fight for a “not guilty” verdict.
Also see our article on the federal crime of presenting false or fictitious claims.