DOJ Says Afghans Paid Bribes to Navy Commander to Secure U.S. Visas

( A Navy Reserve officer appeared in a US federal court in New Hampshire on March 11 on charges that he accepted bribes and conspired to commit visa fraud after recommending unknown Afghan nationals for Special Immigrant Visas.

According to court documents, Commander Jeromy Pittmann of Pensacola, Florida, began receiving emails in February 2018 from an unnamed co-conspirator in Kabul who asked Pittmann to write recommendation letters on behalf of Afghan citizens looking to get SIVs who were willing to “pay for it.”

Pittman wanted to know how much the Afghans, none of whom were known to Pittmann, were willing to pay in exchange for his recommendation letter.

According to an affidavit from Special Agent Kevin Naylon, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), between 2018 and 2020, Pittmann allegedly attempted to provide more than 20 SIVs in this plot in return for thousands of dollars in bribes.

In his letters of recommendation, Pittmann falsely claimed that he personally knew the applicants and had supervised them in their roles as translators for the US Army and NATO. He wrote that the applicants (whom he never met) posed no threat to national security.

According to court documents, in exchange for his letters and verifications, bribe money was wired first to Pittmann’s Bank of America account in Hayward, California, and then to an account with USAA in Pensacola, Florida for “family support.”

After his initial payment, Pittmann allegedly emailed his co-conspirator confirming receipt of the money. In his email, Pittmann said he wanted the money to “keep coming,” adding “it would be nice to pay off my debts.”

In a later email, Pittmann allegedly joked about making this bribery scheme a long-term operation so “we can make some real money.”

Separate court documents filed show that Pittmann and his wife had filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

In his affidavit, Special Agent Naylon alleged that Pittman has admitted to the charges against him.

If convicted, Pittmann faces up to 20 years in prison.