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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Suspected of Forging U.S. Visas

City Crime Statistics
March 9 to March 15
Theft (total)961379
Apartment burglaries16223
Car theft3612
For the Record
Car accidents185
    a) killed8
    b) injured202
Public drunkenness4,043
    a) detained overnight1,153/td>

Missing persons58
Bodies discovered78
Source: Moscow police

Four suspects have been charged with fraud for selling crude counterfeit visas to the United States and Europe to unwitting travelers, police said Wednesday.

The suspects -- a man and three women -- were arrested Saturday, the same day that two apparent victims were stopped at Sheremetyevo Airport trying to board a flight to New York, said Oleg Yelnikov, spokesman for the Interior Ministry's organized crime and terrorism department.

Police had been monitoring the suspects for six months and detained them near Kazansky Station, Yelnikov said. He declined to identify them, citing an ongoing investigation.

The two stopped at the airport were Armenian women who had paid $17,000 to the suspects to visit relatives in the United States, Yelnikov said. The suspects had identified themselves as travel agents and offered to obtain the visas and plane tickets quickly and legally for that amount. "The women were completely confident that this was a legal business, and they handed over the money," Yelnikov said.

Noviye Izvestia reported Wednesday that the suspects had been milling around the U.S. Embassy's consular section and recruited clients from the people standing in line to apply for visas.

Yelnikov could not confirm this version but called it plausible.

What was striking about the fake visas was their primitive quality, Yelnikov said. They had apparently been created using a computer and printer, he said.

U.S. Consul General James Pettit said fake visas vary greatly in quality. "You have everything from the very good to the very bad," he said.

The best counterfeit visas have been "washed," meaning they are real U.S. visas whose original information has been erased and replaced with false information, Petit said.

The suspects may have been doing more than counterfeiting visas. During their arrest, two of the women produced fake badges identifying themselves as members of the Commission on Battling Corruption, Yelnikov said.

The suspects face up to six years in prison if convicted on fraud charges.