Archives for May 2013

6th Circuit Rules Conspiracy to Traffic False Identification Documents is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude

In a rather unsurprising amended opinion, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the categorical approach, the petitioner’s plea to conspiracty to traffic false identification documents qualified as a crime involving “moral turpitude” because the conduct prohibited by the statute he was convicted under inherently involved deceit. Accordingly, the petitioner was thus removable.

The petitioner is a Russian citizen who lawfully entered the U.S. On or about 2/3/99, he was indicted for his alleged participation in a “scheme to assist others to fraudulently obtain Michigan driver’s licenses using other fraudulent documents.” He later pleaded guilty in a New York district court to a single count under 18 USC § 1028(f) for conspiracy to traffic in fraudulent identification documents in violation of 18 USC § 1028(a)(3). This underlying offense prohibits “knowingly possessing with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more identification documents (other than those issued lawfully for the use of the possessor), authentication features, or false identification documents.” The petitioner was sentenced to five months of imprisonment followed by two years of supervised release. 

On 1/26/05, Department of Homeland Security began removal/deportation proceedings. The petitioner raised the issue as to whether the conviction was one involving moral turpitude. In its decision the court held that the term “crime involving moral turpitude” is not defined in the Immigration and Naturalization Act or by agency regulations. However, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held in the past that “[w]here knowing or intentional conduct is an element of an offense, we have found moral turpitude to be present.” “‘Fraud has consistently been regarded as such a contaminating component in any crime that American courts have, without exception, included such crimes within the scope of moral turpitude.'” The 6th Circuit Court concluded that the BIA’s analysis in Matter of Serna supported their conclusion that any intentional unlawful use or transfer of multiple identification documents whose purpose was to identify individuals to government authorities would inherently be intended to deceive the government in some way. The 6th Circuit further noted that a number of  previous cases supported the proposition that moral turpitude is involved when a statute of conviction requires knowing possession of unlawfully possessed or false identification documents, combined with a corrupt intent to use or transfer the documents unlawfully. Thus, the court held that a conviction under 18 USC § 1028(a)(3) inherently involves deceptive conduct, and the petitioner’s conviction constituted a crime involving moral turpitude. 

If you are a lawful permanent resident facing removal/deportation, feel free to contact my office to have a review of your case. My office telephone number is 616-233-9300. My office email address is
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