Man who worked for DHS admits sending fake government letter to couple

Washington — A Virginia man admitted that while he was employed by the Department of Homeland Security, he and his wife wrote a letter on fake State Department letterhead and impersonated an official in order to threaten a French couple who had employed their daughter as an au pair in Southern France.

Ralph Karau, a defendant in a misuse of names, words, emblems or insignia charge, pleaded guilty Monday to the one-count count. This law makes it illegal for fraudulently using official U.S. Government symbols “for conveying the false impression such communication comes from a department,” court records show.

According to records filed with the plea agreement, in October of 2019, Karau and his wife, Kathleen, prepared the letter soon after their daughter had returned to the U.S. from her stint as an au pair, and a forensic investigation showed that Karau had worked on the letter on devices issued to him by the government.

” The defendant’s daughter claimed that she had been mistreated by her family at Madiot,” court papers explained. However, they did not detail the accusations of mistreatment.

“On hearing these allegations from their daughter the defendant and his spouse created a fake letter to the Madiots,” according to the filing. The fake correspondence, which falsely stated that the couple from France had received a formal complaint against the State Department regarding their mistreatment and warned them that they might be refused entry to the U.S.

Further, “[t]he letter implied that a ‘financial settlement’ paid to the Karau’s daughter would be in the best interest of the Madiots,” the filings reveal.

The Karaus created a State Department official named “Karl Wilkinson,” Deputy Chief of International Investigations Unit. The official seal was used by the State Department to lend legitimacy to the letter.

Karau, at that time a senior advisor to DHS’ director of real estate, admitted to having sent the letter via a Washington, D.C. post office so it could be stamped in Washington, D.C., as per the statement of offense filed in this case.

Karau was granted a top secret security clearance due to his work at DHS.

CBS News reached out to DHS in order to get clarifications about Karau’s status as an employee at the department.

The couple from France received the note and were “deeply worried about any legal or additional consequences they might have.” They contacted DHS for clarification regarding Karau’s employment status at the department.

A spokesperson from the U.S. State Department directed CBS News to Washington, D.C.’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, who prosecuted this case. According to court records, the U.S. Department of State didn’t know about the fraudulent letter. It also did not authorise its creation or use of its official seal. “

The issue was eventually referred to U.S. Law Enforcement, which resulted in the Karaus being charged.

Kathleen Karau signed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the government in which she took responsibility for her actions without being officially convicted. The story was not confirmed by her attorneys.

Ralph Karau now faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. CBS News did not receive a response from his legal team.

Nicole Sganga and Paulina Smolinski contributed to this report.

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