Book reviewCorrupt practices: U.S. visa-granting easily compromised

By Grant M. Lally

Published 31 October 2013

While serving as a Foreign Service Officer in Guyana, Thomas Carroll sold visas to anyone who would pay, making millions of dollars in the process. Carroll’s scheme differed from the petty favors and kick-backs, which had typified FSO visa fraud in other embassies and consulates, mostly in scale. He took retail visa fraud and made it wholesale.

The Thomas Carroll Affair: A Journey through the Cottage Industry of Illegal Immigration, by David Casavis. Deeper Look Books, New York, New York, ISBN 978-0-9856525-0-0

The 9/11 attacks on America prompted an examination   of the security gaps which allowed a group of nineteen al Qaeda operatives to enter the United States — with valid visas and under false pretenses — and stay for months while taking flight classes and training for terrorism in the United States. Most obvious were the institutional Chinese walls which prevented effective communication among law enforcement and intelligence agencies that might have identified and stopped the plotters, and the investigative failures that overlooked the sometimes obvious clues to an often amateurish plot. Mostly airbrushed out of the historical picture was the  initial failure at the U.S. Department of State in issuing visas to each of the plotters, allowing them ready access to enter the country.

This failure was all the more glaring in light of the U.S. visa corruption scandal that had broken, just one year earlier, involving the sale of thousands of U.S. visas by a corrupt U.S. embassy official, in the small South American country of Guyana. Thomas Carroll, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer (FSO) at the U.S. Department of State had converted his two-year posting in Georgetown, Guyana into a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise, dispensing U.S. visas in exchange for cash, to criminals, economic migrants, and anyone who could pay the tab.

Operating through organized crime figures who acted as his “visa brokers,” Carroll collected as much as $10,000.00 per visa, and sold thousands of such visas. Convicted criminals, rapists, murderers, and other undesirables were sold U.S. visas by Carroll, while many honest applicants were denied, so that Carroll could maintain his “quota” of rejected applicants. The millions of dollars flowing into Carroll’s hands, and his status as U.S. Deputy Consul, gave him the means to ingratiate himself and corrupt the Guyanese police force, which Carroll increasingly used as his private enforcement squad. When people threatened to talk, or brokers refused to pay, Carroll called upon his new friends — the police — to beat-up, threaten, or try to kill those who were creating problems.