19 January 2014

Tanzanian Jailed in Belize for Identity Theft

A 55 year-old woman from Tanzania has been sentenced to a year in jail after failing to pay a fine of 4,000 US dollars after she was found guilty of four different immigration offences, including identity theft.

The woman, identified as Ms Teena Issac, was charged with one count of using a document she wasn't entitled to use for the social security card, another count for the birth certificate, a third count of falsifying an official document for the forgeries she made to the passport form, and failing to comply with a visitor's permit.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Spokesperson, Mr Mkumbwa Ally said they have not been informed of the any arrest and sentencing of a Tanzanian in Belize but will follow up on the matter. "We do not have an embassy in Belize so if at all she is Tanzanian it would take time to get the information.

We will also have to verify that she is truly a Tanzanian citizen," he said. According to reports, she is being held at the Belize Central Prison after she stole the identity of a Belizean woman and used it to try to apply for a Belizean passport.

The passport document would have been the last document Teena Isaac needed to get to fully assume the identity of Carmen Cantun. She already had a birth certificate from the Vital Statistics Unit, complete with all the information belonging to Carmen Cantun.

It says that she was born in San Narciso Village in the Corozal District in July of 1966 and that she is supposedly the daughter of Cebastiana Cantun, who resides in San Narciso Village. This birth certificate indicates that it was issued on December 30, 2013.

Belize is a country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in the area that has English as the official language, though an English creole and Spanish are more commonly spoken She also has a social security card which looks authentic, with her picture in the location instead of the real Carmen Cantun.

The work of the forgery is impressive; you wouldn't be able to tell that it's fake document if a public official didn't tell you that it was. The social security card was issued on January 3, 2014, and it expires on January 2, 2024. When she went into the Belize City Passport office at the Charles Bartlett Hyde Building yesterday, everything seemed to be in order.

She filled out all the application forms, and she produced the 2 prerequisite recommendations from the guarantors, under the new passport regulations. She paid the application fees, and her processing almost went through flawlessly, but the immigration officer got concerned when she was speaking to this woman claiming to be Carmen Cantun.

She was being unusually quiet, and when she was asked certain questions, she didn't respond. Officers believed she didn't understand the language that the officer was speaking in. Because the officer looked at her credentials and saw that she was supposedly from San Narciso, Corozal, she made an educated guess and addressed her in Spanish the entire time.

She was simply exchanging pleasantries with the woman to get her to relax during the routine interview process. Because Isaac, pretending to be Carmen Cantun, didn't answer, the immigration officer asked her to step into another room, and that's when the officers started to press her for answers.

Under questioning, Isaac revealed that she understood English perfectly, but the officers picked up her heavy African accent. She also revealed that she was a Tanzanian national, that she had been in Belize illegally for over a year and a half, since July 22, 2012, and that she violated the visitor's permit, which granted her a month's stay in the country.

The officers continued to press her, and they eventually got a hold of her battered Tanzanian passport, which revealed her identity as Teena Iron Isaac, and that's when the officers charged her with 4 different immigration offenses.

She was arraigned before Magistrate Dale Cayetano, where she pleaded guilty to all the charges. She broke down asking for leniency, admitting to all the forgeries she had perpetuated. Magistrate Cayetano sentenced her to pay fines to a total of 4,000 US dollars forthwith, which she wasn't able to pay.

She will now have the serve the default sentence of 1 year in prison. It is expected that the Immigration Department will apply for a removal order, and she will be deported back to her home country as soon as she serves the time, or pays the fine in the slight grace period most illegal immigrants are given.

Immigration authorities have just started to investigate the case, so they are not sure if the real Carmen Cantun is still alive, or if she has passed away. They do believe that for this level of forgery, Teena Isaac must have had inside help from the Social Security Board and/or the Vital Statistics Unit.

The persons who signed for her as her guarantors are also facing investigation. One of them forged on the passport application form that he knew Isaac for 5 years, which is not possible because, as we told you, she was only in the country for 1 and a half years. Under new passport laws such offences carry stiff penalties.

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