Since late December, Collin County residents have been unable to apply for passports at Collin County Passport Offices. The offices in Plano and McKinney have been suspended from accepting new applications due to an ongoing passport fraud investigation.
This suspension comes from the Dallas Passport Agency, a local branch of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. The five-year, multi-agency, passport fraud investigation is looking into fraudulent passport documents dating back to more than a decade, according to a news release from the county.
Despite an investigation by Diplomatic Security Service clearing the two Collin County passport offices, the DPA requires the offices remain closed, according to the release.
“As soon as I learned of an investigation I reached out to the Diplomatic Security Service, and after spending hours with the agents working on the investigation, the Dallas Passport Agency suspended our offices against the advice of DSS,” Collin County District Clerk Lynne Finley said in the release. “We’ve done everything we possibly can do to cooperate, and DSS found nothing wrong with the way we handle passport applications.”
Finley’s office handled nearly 40,000 passport application in the last year, and the county collected more than $1 million in handling fees. Revenue from these fees went into the general fund for county services, according to the release.
Finley said federal authorities told her that Collin County office may have received one suspect passport application out of the 40,000 it received in 2018.
“No other counties’ passport offices have been suspended in relation to this investigation that we’re aware of,” Finley said in the release. “But this jeopardizes at least four of my employees’ jobs if this needless suspension continues much longer.”
Finley has asked various state department agencies to allow her to re-open her offices but has had no luck.
The DPA could not be reached for comments on the closure or other claims made by Finley.
Phone calls to the DPA office made by Community Impact Newspaper have gone unanswered.
Finley said county officials remain confused on the exact reasons for the closures following a letter the county received from the U.S. Department of State on Feb. 21.
“Based on our review of the facts, circumstances and new concerns that have arisen, the Collin County Passport acceptance facilities will remain suspended from providing passport acceptance services until further notice,” reads the letter.
In the meantime, Collin County residents must make appointments at local post offices to file passport applications or go to another county’s passport office.