KU teaching assistant indicted by federal grand jury for falsifying visa application
A fiction writer and journalism teaching assistant at the University of Kansas was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday for falsely stating on his visa application that he had served as a translator under two U.S. Army generals in Iraq.
The criminal complaint that was filed in Kansas City, Kansas, federal court in July says Goran Sabah Ghafour, 34, is charged with one count of fraud and misuse of visas and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
Ghafour, who has written at least three novels, according to his personal website, was arrested in late July after federal authorities searched his apartment. He was released on his own recognizance, says Jim Cross, a spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall.
It was unclear Wednesday whether Ghafour, who graduated from KU in May with a graduate degree in journalism, was still employed by the school. A KU spokesman did not respond to questions about Ghafoor status with the journalism school.
Ghafour’s attorney, Branden Bell, says he cannot comment about Ghafour or the case. A call to Ghafour’s phone was not returned.
If convicted, Ghafour faces a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the visa charge, and not less than two years (consecutive to the other count) on the identity-theft charges.
According to the complaint as well as his own website, Ghafour appears to have come to KU to study in 2010.
In 2014, Ghafour submitted an application for a visa under a special provision for former Iraqi nationals who had worked for the U.S. military in Iraq, the complaint said. But Ghafour had to include a “chief of mission letter,” giving details of the services he had provided for the U.S. government.
The complaint said Ghafour submitted a letter that was allegedly written and signed by a general. But after a review of the letter, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services believed that it contained “suspicious information,” and referred it to the agency’s Fraud Detection and National Security unit.
In 2015, Ghafour sent a second letter that also contained “suspicious information,” the complaint said, and was allegedly signed by a second general. The complaint did not name the two generals and instead used their initials, V.H. and D.P.
Both letters indicated that Ghafour had served as an interpreter for the Army in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
After tracking Ghafour’s e-mails to a KU address, Homeland Security investigators contacted the university and determined that he was a graduate teaching assistant.
In June, Homeland Security investigators obtained a search warrant and searched Ghafour’s home. During an interview that month, he admitted that he had tried to get a visa through fraud, the complaint said. Ghafour also said he had created fictitious e-mail addresses for the two generals.
While at KU, Ghafour’s website says, he has written a number of short stories, research papers and three novels.
His site says he has received two degrees in journalism from KU and that he has studied at the University of Dortmund-Technology, in Germany, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Salahaddin in Iraq.
In a 2014 story about him in the Daily Kansan, KU’s student newspaper, Ghafour said his early childhood memories were of war between Iraq and Iran and that he and his family later migrated to the United States.