United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff: Craig Andrew Defoe, LEAD ATTORNEY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC.
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.
Defendant Jordan Georgieff is a native of Bulgaria who became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2008. The United States alleges that Georgieff fraudulently obtained this citizenship and has brought the instant action to denaturalize him. The government alleges two independent grounds for denaturalization: first, that Georgieff illegally procured U.S. citizenship by failing to acquire permanent resident status lawfully and providing false testimony for the purpose of obtaining naturalization; and second, that Georgieff procured his citizenship by " willful misrepresentation and concealment of material facts." (Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 14 (" Pl.'s Mot." ), at 1.) Before this Court at present is the government's motion for summary judgment. ( See id.) Because this Court concludes that the government has met its burden of providing " clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence" regarding two different grounds for denaturalization--procuring citizenship illegally, and procuring citizenship by willful misrepresentation and concealment of material facts--the Court will GRANT the government's motion for summary judgment and ORDER the revocation of Georgieff's naturalization. An order consistent with this memorandum opinion will follow.
Defendant Georgieff was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1968. (See Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (" Visa Application" ), Ex. A-1 to Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts, ECF No. 15-2.) In 1990, Georgieff immigrated to Canada, and applied for refugee status using the name " Jordan Langazov." (Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts (" SMF" ), ECF No. 14-1, ¶ 2.) Georgieff lived in Canada for approximately eleven years. (Id. ¶ 6.) During that time, Georgieff committed several serious crimes, including theft, breaking and entering, assault, use of a credit card obtained by crime, and possession of property obtained by crime. (Certificate of Conviction (" Certificate" ), Ex. D to SMF, ECF No. 15-5.) As a result of these convictions, Canada deported Georgieff in May 2001. (Id. ¶ 6.)
Prior to his deportation, Georgieff had married a Canadian citizen, Diana Zidarova, (see Letter from Quebec Civil Status Director (" Quebec Letter" ), Ex. C to SMF, ECF No. 15-4); however, a little more than a year after his deportation, Georgieff married a second woman, Dariana Borisova, without divorcing Zidarova. (See Marriage Certificate, Ex. G to SMF, ECF No. 15-8; see also Quebec Letter, Ex. C to SMF.) Borisova is a citizen of Bulgaria, but through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program she also became a legal permanent resident of the United States following her marriage to Georgieff. ( See SMF ¶ 9.) The Diversity Visa Lottery Program allows immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to enter into a lottery through which they can obtain a visa for permanent residency. See 8 U.S.C. § 1153(c). Spouses and other immediate relatives of Diversity Visa recipients are given preferential treatment if they apply for a visa. See id. § 1153(a).
In January 2003, Georgieff used his marriage to Borisova to apply for a U.S. visa. (See SMF ¶ 10.) Georgieff made several false statements in the visa application, claiming that his marriage to Borisova was his first marriage, that he had never been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, and had never used any other name or alias. (See id. ¶ 11.) Unaware of these falsehoods, on February 27, 2003, the United States granted Georgieff a visa based on his marriage to Borisova. (See id. ¶ 12.)
After living in the United States for about four years, Georgieff applied to become a naturalized citizen in December 2007. On July 25, 2008, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (" USCIS" ) interviewed Georgieff. ( See N-400 Application for Naturalization (" Naturalization Application" ), Ex. A-3 to SMF, ECF No. 15-2.) The government maintains that in both the application and the interview, Georgieff again made a number of misrepresentations, including claiming only to have been married once, stating that he had never been convicted of a crime or spent time in jail or prison, and denying that he had ever used an alias. ( See id.) Lacking any information to the contrary, USCIS approved his application, and Georgieff took his oath of citizenship on August 21, 2008. (SMF ¶ 23.)
The government initiated this denaturalization action on May 2, 2013, when it brought a Complaint to Revoke Naturalization against Georgieff. ( See Compl., ECF No. 1.) Georgieff is currently living in Bulgaria, so the government sent two formal requests to Bulgarian authorities to serve Georgieff under the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents. ( See Mot. to Allow Service by Publication, ECF No. 8, at 1.) Because Bulgarian authorities were unsuccessful in their attempt to serve Georgieff ( see id.), this Court permitted the government to effect service of process by publication. ( See Order Granting Motion for Service by Publication, ECF No. 10.) Beginning in June 2014, the government published a notice nine times in three different newspapers, informing Georgieff of the nature of the action, and also how and by when he was required to respond. ( See Pl.'s Notice of Service of Process by Publication, ECF No. 12, at 1.) The government published the last notice on July 25, 2014, and the Defendant has not entered an appearance to date. ( See Pl.'s Notice of Service of Process by Publication, at 1.) The government filed the instant motion for summary judgment on November 14, 2014. ( See Pl.'s Mot.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Denaturalization Proceedings
Section 1451 of Title 8 of the United States Code lays out two grounds for revoking a naturalized person's citizenship. Naturalized citizenship can be revoked, first, if it was " illegally procured," and second, if it was " procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation." 8 U.S.C. § 1451(a). If a court finds that the government has met its burden on either ground, then it must revoke the individual's citizenship. Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490, 517, 101 S.Ct. 737, 66 L.Ed.2d 686 (1981) (" [O]nce a district court determines that the Government has met its burden . . . it has no discretion to excuse the conduct." ).
It is well established that naturalized citizenship is " illegally procured" if the applicant failed to comply strictly with any of the " congressionally imposed prerequisites to the acquisition of citizenship." Id. at 506. In other words, " 'every certificate of citizenship must be treated as granted upon condition that the government may . . . demand its cancellation unless issued in accordance with'" all of the requirement set forth by Congress. Id. (quoting United States v. Ginsberg, 243 U.S. 472, 475, 37 S.Ct. 422, 61 L.Ed. 853 (1917)). One such statutory prerequisite is that the applicant was " lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence[.]" 8 U.S.C. § 1429. Another statutory requirement is that the applicant " has been and still is a person of good moral character" for a period that begins with the application for naturalization, and continues until the applicant takes the oath of allegiance. See 8 U.S.C. § 1427(a)(3). Congress has specifically instructed that a person is not of good moral character if they have " given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining any [immigration] benefits[.]" 8 U.S.C. § 1101(f)(6).
Naturalized citizenship can also be revoked if it was procured as a result of the applicant's willful misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact. See Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759, 767, 108 S.Ct. 1537, 99 L.Ed.2d 839 (1988); see also United States v. Alrasheedi, 953 F.Supp.2d 112, 115 (D.D.C. 2013). The causation (procurement due to fraud) element is satisfied if disclosure of the misrepresentation would have " presumably disqualified" the applicant. Kungys, 485 U.S. at 777 (emphasis omitted). Moreover, the misrepresentation or concealment must be " both willful and material," id. at 767; however, willfulness requires only knowledge of the falsity of the statement. See Witter v. I.N.S., 113 F.3d 549, 554 (5th Cir. 1997) (" Proof of an intent to deceive is not required; rather, knowledge of the falsity of the representation is ...