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U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo Reopens

May 13, 2003

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (AP) _ A U.S. consulate in the border city of Nuevo Laredo reopened Monday, four months after it was closed to investigate a scandal in which employees confessed to selling visas.

The U.S. government closed the consulate, across the border from Laredo, Texas, to all but U.S. citizen services on Jan. 29, to allow the Justice Department to look into allegations people were receiving visas illegally.

``It gives us great satisfaction to begin processing laser visas for the border, now that we have overcome the fraud within our consulate,″ said U.S. Consul Thomas Armbruster.

Armbruster said the consulate has hired all new personnel to process visa applications, after four consulate employees pleaded guilty in March to selling U.S. visas for up to $1,500 each.

The visas were processed without interviews and other standard requirements for those who paid bribes.

The four men each face up to five years in prison along with a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release.

The Nuevo Laredo consulate was the sixth busiest U.S. consular office in the world in 2001, the latest year for which statistics were available.

But officials will slow the pace now that the consulate has reopened: it will issue only about 150 visas per day, as opposed to the 500 documents per day it pumped out before the scandal. A mobile unit for visa applications will also no longer be used.

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