Updated: Mar 24, 2022
A Navy Reserve officer accepted bribes from more than 20 Afghans between 2018 and 2020, and in returned falsely verified that they acted as translators for the U.S. military in order to help them receive special immigration visas (SIVs) and enter the United States.
The Department of Justice is charging Reserve Officer Jeromy Pittman of Florida with taking “thousands of dollars” in bribes and committing visa fraud, according to a March 11 statement. If convicted of both charges, Pittman could face up to 20 years in prison.
“There is a limited supply of SIVs each year for Afghan nationals employed as translators for U.S. military personnel,” DOJ said. “Pittmann is alleged to have signed over 20 false letters in which he represented, among other things, that he had supervised the applicants while they worked as translators in support of the U.S. Army and NATO; that the applicants’ lives were in jeopardy because the Taliban considered them to be traitors; and that he did not think the applicants posed a threat to the national security of the United States.”
U.S. officials have said that of the 60,000 Afghan refugees who made it to the United States after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, only about 1,800 are SIV holders.
According to the Military Times, Pittman was first asked in February 2018 by an unnamed Afghan co-conspirator for help securing SIVs for five of his cousins.
“Do you think you can write them a recommendation letter for SIV?” the co-conspirator asked in an email. “They will pay for it.”
Documents provided by DOJ show that Pittman asked how much they were willing to pay for the recommendation. While some of these Afghans may have worked for the U.S. government during its occupation of Afghanistan, they were all unknown to Pittman.
Pittman allegedly had the bribe money sent to bank accounts in California and Florida, and talked openly about his debts – he and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 2019.
“I got it today,” Pittman wrote in one email to an Afghan contact. “Thank you and thank your friend for sending it. I just wish the money would keep coming. Ha. Maybe one day we will get a business started. It would be nice to pay off my debts.”
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