Nearly 100 people were indicted and about 50 are currently in jail after immigration officials say they busted one of the largest marriage fraud rings in Texas history.
Immigration and Homeland Security officials claim 53-year-old Ashley Yen Nguyen, a Houston resident, along with her daughter and common-law husband headed up a massive fraud organization with associates operating throughout Texas and the Republic of Vietnam, all designed to arrange sham marriages and obtain immigration visas for immigrants looking to come to the United States.
The scheme set-up charged the would-be immigrants a fee for each individual benefit they received from the scam, such as admission into the United States, conditional U.S. permanent resident status and full U.S. permanent resident status, with the total cost ranging from $50,000 to $70,000, investigators found. Nguyen's organization would then send fraudulent paperwork to the federal government, including tax and employment documents, to start the immigration process.
According to the indictment, Nguyen and her associates recruited other U.S. citizens to agree to the “marriages,” paying them a portion of the fees collected from their immigrant “spouses.” Several of them became recruiters themselves afterward, while others were responsible for handling the payments and dispersing them among all the scheme’s participants.
Nguyen’s plan even went so far as to create fake wedding albums appearing to show her clients holding elaborate wedding ceremonies when, in fact, some of them had barely met once.
“The indictment alleges the marriages involved in this conspiracy were shams because the spouses did not live together and did not intend to do so, contrary to the official documents and statements they submitted to USCIS. The spouses only met briefly, usually immediately before they obtained their marriage license, or not at all,” ICE added.
According to ICE, the full indictment count included more than 200 individual charges scattered among 96 suspects, including 47 counts of marriage fraud, 50 counts of mail fraud; 51 counts of immigration fraud; 51 counts of false statements under oath in a matter relating to registry of aliens; and one count each of conspiracy to engage in marriage fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, conspiracy to make false statements under oath in a matter relating to registry of aliens, unlawful procurement of naturalization, obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice, and tampering with a witness, victim or informant.