Man admits threatening French couple with fake US government letter while employed by DHS

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

In court on Monday, Ralph Karau pleaded guilty to one count of misusing names, words, emblems or insignia – a law that prohibits the fraudulent use of official symbols of the US government “in the purpose of giving the false impression that such communication is from a department,” according to court documents.

According to documents filed with the plea agreement, in October 2019, Karau and his wife, Kathleen, prepared the letter shortly after their daughter returned to the United States from her au pair stay, and a medical investigation. legal evidence showed that Karau worked on the device letter given to him by the government.

“The daughter of the accused alleged that she had been abused by the Madiot family,” explain court documents, without detailing the allegations of abuse.

“After hearing these complaints from their daughter, the defendant and his wife together created a fraudulent letter to send to the Madiots,” the filing states.

The forged correspondence incorrectly informed the French couple that an “official complaint” had been filed against them with the State Department for their alleged mistreatment, and it warned them that they could be denied entry to the United States. United because of this complaint.

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

The Karaus coined a State Department official, “Karl Wilkinson, Deputy Chief of the International Investigations Unit” and used the official State Department seal to give the letter an air of legitimacy.

Karau, who at the time worked as a senior adviser to the director of real estate at DHS, also admitted that he sent the letter through a post office in Washington, D.C., to be postmarked. in the national capital, according to the statement of offense filed in the case.

Due to his employment at DHS, Karau had a top-secret security clearance, court records also noted.

CBS News has reached out to DHS for comment on the case and clarification on Karau’s employment status with the department.

Upon receiving the note, the French couple were described as ‘deeply concerned about the legal or other consequences they might face’ and contacted the French Embassy in Washington, DC, who escalated the matter to the Embassy. from the United States to Paris.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson referred CBS News to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC, which is pursuing the case. Court filings filed by prosecutors explained, “The US State Department was unaware of this fraudulent letter and did not authorize its writing or the use of its official seal in the letter.

The matter was eventually referred to US law enforcement, resulting in charges against the Karaus.

Kathleen Karau entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, in which she accepted responsibility for her conduct without being formally convicted. His lawyers declined to comment for this story.

Ralph Karau now faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. His legal team did not immediately return CBS News’ request for comment.

Nicole Sganga and Paulina Smolinski contributed to this report.