U.S. charges three Iraqi refugees with immigration fraud

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three Iraqi refugees in Virginia were charged with immigration fraud on Tuesday after failing to disclose their relationship to a man who was involved in the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Iraq in 2004, the Justice Department said.

Yousif al Mashhandani, 35, of Vienna, Virginia; his brother, Adil Hasan, 38, of Burke, Virginia; and Hasan's wife, Enas Ibrahim, 32, also of Burke, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with attempting to obtain naturalization as U.S. citizens in a manner contrary to law, the department said in a statement.

All three are lawful permanent residents of the United States, but while Mashhandani was applying for citizenship, officials determined that his fingerprints matched those found on a document at a site where a U.S. citizen kidnapped in Iraq in 2004 had been rescued, the statement said.

According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, a U.S. citizen identified only as R.H. was kidnapped and held with other hostages for months in horrible conditions in an underground bunker in Iraq, the Justice Department said.

A raid in 2005 freed the hostages, and Majid al Mashhandani, the brother of the two men arrested in Virginia, admitted his complicity in the kidnapping. Neither brother in the United States included him on the extensive lists of family members provided as part of the naturalization process, the department said.

When interviewed by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Yousif al Mashhandani said he omitted references to Majid because when he was a refugee, others had told him he would not be allowed into the United States if any immediate family members had a criminal background.

Hasan also acknowledged that he had falsified some of the statement he made as part of his application for refugee status, including saying he had been held hostage and tortured by a Shi'ite militia, the department said.

Mashhandani, Hasan and Ibrahim could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Lisa Von Ahn)