Yousif Al-Mashhadani

Vetting Year
Time from U.S. Entry to Discovery
5 years, 5 months*
National Security Crime Type
Nationality of Perpetrator
Immigration Status Type
Refugee classification; Lawful Permanent Residence; Naturalized Citizenship
Agency Responsible for Failure
USCIS for Refugee classification, Lawful Permanent Residence, and Naturalized Citizenship
Opportunities Missed
Nation(s) Vetting Occurred
Arresting Agency
Criminal Charges
Attempt to procure naturalization contrary to law
Case Outcome
Convicted 06/2017 for illegally procuring citizenship
Case Summary

Iraqi citizen Yousif Al-Mashhadani, his brother Adil Hasan Al-Mashhadani, and his brother’s wife Enas Ibrahim entered the United States together as refugees in 2008. They claimed persecution stories involving victimhood at the hands of al-Qaeda in Iraq and settled in the Fairfax, Va., area.

But US Citizenship and Immigration Services security screeners based in Amman, Jordan, granted their provisional refugee petitions despite discoverable intelligence information from a U.S. military raid in 2005 that recovered the fingerprint of Yousif inside a deplorable underground al-Qaeda torture bunker where kidnapped westerners were freed, including American contractor Roy Hallums, an FBI complaint affidavit much later revealed. While it’s unclear from public information why Yousif's fingerprints taken for his refugee application in Jordan three years later did not get matched to the one in U.S. possession, UCIS reviewers in Jordan also missed other family ties to the particularly murderous branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq and to the torture bunker.

It was that Yousif and his other brother, Adil Hasan, hid the existence of another problematic brother, Majid Al Mashhadani, who was working directly with al-Qaeda and helped his terrorist group kidnap Hallums, who was kept for nearly a year blindfolded in a deplorable underground torture bunker, a later FBI investigation found. When U.S. military forces freed Hallums and other captives in the 2005 raid, they arrested Majid at the site. The Iraqi government imprisoned him for two years in Iraq.

It was the U.S.-based FBI investigation that matched Yousif's fingerprints to the torture bunker and also uncovered the brotherly connection to Majid at the al-Qaeda bunker, not any routine security vetting associated with refugee or permanent immigration applications, including one in May 2013 for naturalized citizenship. The FBI found the fingerprint match in a separate investigation six months after the citizenship applications were filed, in November 2013. Court records do not elaborate on government thinking about the Yousif Al-Mashhadani fingerprint. But whether this refuge-granted brother was a terrorist operative, too, the investigation also found that all three refugees, including Adil’s wife, Enas Ibrahim, wittingly covered up their disqualifying relationships to the arrested kidnapper brother on at least two occasions.

The first was during the 2007-2008 USCIS security screening for the provisional refugee applications in Iraq. A second opportunity passed when they secured their change-of-status applications in the United States for lawful permanent residence sometime later in 2008, and a third came and went in 2013 when the trio applied for naturalized citizenship.

The misses seemed particularly egregious in light of other information apparently at the fingertips of adjudicators. In his first refugee application, for instance, Hasan filled out a “Worldwide Refugee Admissions Family Tree” report in which he omitted the al-Qaeda brother who'd been imprisoned after the American bunker raid. He also dropped his own “Al Mashhadani” family name as part of the ruse, keeping the alias "Adil Hasan" permanently after they settled in Virginia. But these ruses were discoverable because of yet a fourth brother who'd entered the United States earlier.

The fourth brother identified in court records only as “A.M.”, a ranking Iraqi police official who would have been listed in the family tree document, also applied for refugee status in 2007. In August of that year, the Iraqi police official brother provided the American agency with all of the information about the terrorist brother and fully identified all of his other brothers to USCIS adjudicators. They were all in searchable databases.

Information that all the brothers were biologically related (one therefore revealed as not listed in applications), nearly a year before Hasan’s application was granted, was therefore available through basic fact-finding and would have enabled adjudicators to link them all and discover the omissions.

Secondly, a fingerprint check of Yousif Al-Mashhadani likely was never conducted as required under post-9/11 security screening reforms. Otherwise, a fingerprint database check should have discovered his fingerprint had been collected from inside the bunker, flagged the refugee applicant as a likely terrorist operative as well, and doomed the initial early applications of all three.

Third, the FBI in 2016 found the persecution stories that both brothers and Enas Ibrahim initially provided to USCIS adjudicators were riddled with simple discrepancies that seemed easily discoverable.

Under FBI questioning about these back-story discrepancies, all were forced to admit to making up the basic facts of their claims years after USCIS adjudicators apparently accepted them at face value. In short, federal criminal investigation following the basic footsteps of immigration security screening – rather than the other way around – turned up the derogatory information necessary to reveal the deceits.

Yousif Al-Mashhadani was arrested in March 2017, after eight years of ineligible living inside the United States. He pleaded guilty to immigration fraud, was sentenced to time served and submitted to deportation proceedings.