A Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services investigation has discovered a marriage fraud operation headquartered in Vietnam and Houston. Ninety-six people were in indicted and 50 were arrested in connection with the racket.
The plan is described as “a criminal operation that enabled numerous foreign nationals to fraudulently obtain legal immigration status in the U.S., according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release Monday.”
Under the alleged terms of conspiracy, immigrant beneficiaries would pay around $50,000 to $70,000 to get married and score permanent resident status. The marriages were complete shams, according to the April indictment.
The spouses typically met only briefly before they obtained their marriage licenses and did not live together after becoming a “married” couple. The criminal operation behind the marriages would go so far as to produce fake wedding albums and falsified tax, utility and employment information — all in an effort to convince USCIS to approve the forms.
“These arrests mark the culmination of a comprehensive yearlong multi-agency investigation into one of the largest alleged marriage fraud conspiracies ever documented in the Houston area,” Special HSI Agent in Charge Mark Dawson said in a Monday statement. “By working together with our partners from various federal law enforcement agencies, we have sent a resounding message that we are united in our effort to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that seek to circumvent U.S. law by fraudulent means.”
The scam involved recruiting Americans who would marry the customer and get a cut of the customer’s fee. Some of the Americans even started recruiting others for the program.
“Marriage fraud is a serious crime,” USCIS Houston District Director Tony Bryson said in a statement Monday. “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.”
(Photo by Erin Schaff for The Washington Post via Getty Images)