Eleven California-based individuals have been indicted in connection with running a large-scale marriage fraud “agency” that allegedly arranged hundreds of sham marriages entered into for the primary purpose of circumventing immigration laws.
According to the indictment, the group operated what he and others referred to as an “agency” that arranged hundreds of sham marriages between foreign national “clients” and United States citizens. One of those foreign national clients resided in Massachusetts. The agency then allegedly prepared and submitted false petitions, applications and other documents to substantiate the sham marriages and secure adjustment of clients’ immigration statuses for a fee of between $20,000 and $30,000 in cash.
“Marriage fraud is a serious crime that threatens the integrity of our nation’s lawful immigration system,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “These defendants’ alleged exploitation of this system for profit is an affront to our nation’s tradition of welcoming immigrants and prospective citizens. Their alleged fraudulent behavior makes things harder for the vast majority of immigrants who follow the law and respect our immigration system. Beyond that, by allegedly submitting false applications that claimed domestic abuse, these charged defendants did further harm, this time to real victims and survivors of domestic violence. Today’s arrests are the result of impressively comprehensive, cross-country agency collaboration. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners across the country to identify and hold accountable those who seek to violate U.S. law by fraud of any sort.”
It is the utmost honor and privilege to become an American citizen, and the individuals we arrested today have allegedly made a sham of that process by running a large-scale marriage fraud “agency” that arranged hundreds of fake marriages for foreign nationals, racking up millions of dollars in profits. We believe their alleged scheme broke immigration laws that are in place to protect public safety and created a disadvantage for those seeking to earn their citizenship lawfully,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Office “This case should serve as a warning to others that the FBI and our law enforcement partners are united in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that seek to circumvent our laws by fraudulent means.”
“Homeland Security Investigations and our law enforcement partners will continue to prosecute individuals and criminal organizations, who profit from manipulating the immigration system,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “Today’s arrests are a result of an extensive multi-agency marriage and document fraud investigation. HSI will continue to conduct criminal investigations into immigration benefit fraud as this crime threatens the integrity of the lawful immigration system.”
“This case is a prime example of multiple agencies working as a team to uphold and protect our countries lawful immigration system,” said Alanna Ow, Director of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, San Diego District. “Protecting America’s promise is at the core of what we do and I’m very proud of our Fraud Detection and National Security unit for the steadfast work they do to fulfill the agency’s mission on a daily basis.”
It is further alleged that the group would assist certain clients – typically those whose spouses became unresponsive or uncooperative – with obtaining green cards under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by claiming the undocumented clients had been abused by alleged American spouses. Specifically, the agency would allegedly submit fraudulent applications on clients’ behalf for temporary restraining orders against spouses based on fabricated domestic violence allegations. They would then allegedly submit the restraining order documentation along with immigration petitions to USCIS, in order to take advantage of VAWA provisions that permit non-citizen victims of spousal abuse to apply for lawful permanent resident status without their spouses’ involvement.
The charge of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice. For the full story, click on this link https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/eleven-charged-arranging-sham-marriages-and-submitting-fraudulent-green-cards