Close to 100 people in Texas have been charged with federal marriage fraud and related charges, which allegedly aimed to allow Vietnamese citizens to secure residency in the U.S., official said.
Dallas News reports that 96 defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury in April, on 206 charges, including marriage fraud, mail fraud, immigration fraud, unlawfully procuring naturalization, and numerous related charges. According to the outlet, 53-year-old Ashley Yen Nguyen is accused of running a fake marriage scheme from Houston, which helped people in Vietnam obtain illegal entry into the U.S. to live permanently.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement news release indicated that each future “spouse” would pay Nguyen around $50,000 to $70,000 apiece in exchange for full U.S. permanent resident status. A portion of the money would go to U.S. residents who participated in the scam by acting as spouses. Included in the fee were services such as creating fake wedding albums, and transportation costs to fake wedding ceremonies and immigration appointments.
The fee also allowed the Vietnamese residents to gain entry into the U.S., obtain conditional U.S. permanent resident status, followed by full permanent resident status in the U.S.
Further, the U.S. participants would often become recruits themselves, pulling other U.S. citizens into the scam. Some of the U.S. citizens never met their fake spouses before the fraudulent marriage certificate was signed.
“Marriage fraud is a serious crime,” USCIS Houston Director Tony Bryson said. “This indictment reveals how successful our working relationships are with our law enforcement and intelligence partners when it comes to investigating marriage fraud. USCIS remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring national security, public safety and the integrity of the immigration system.”
According to ABC, lawyer Trang Le Nguyen was also indicted for preparing paperwork in connection with one of the fake marriages, and instructing a witness who eventually turned the information over to authorities to “go into hiding” and refrain from traveling via planes.
Ashley Nguyen’s lawyer, Marc Carter, said his client was in trouble for simply “trying to help people.” Both Nguyen and her husband are being held without bond after a judge announced they were flight risks.
Each person indicted on the federal charges could face a possible 20 years in prison.
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Pixabay]