Ninety-six individuals have been charged in connection with a wide-spread alleged marriage fraud scheme headquartered outside of Houston.
Fifty of those involved have been taken into custody according to TheBlaze.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, issued a news release on Monday pertaining to the purported crime.
According to the news release, the alleged scheme involved operatives from the Republic of Vietnam and throughout the state of Texas. The beneficiary spouses would supposedly hand over $50,000 to $70,000 to wed a U.S. citizen in order to receive full U.S. permanent resident status.
In the news release, ICE maintained “The agreements were allegedly prorated in that they would pay an additional amount for each immigration benefit they received, such as admission into the United States, conditional U.S. permanent resident status and full U.S. permanent resident status.”
According to the Daily Caller, “The spouses typically met only briefly before they obtained their marriage licenses and did not live together after becoming a ‘married’ couple.” Unbelievably, the conservative news outlet reported that “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.”
Investigators think they’ve nabbed the mastermind of the scheme.
Reportedly, 53-year-old Ashley Yen Nguyen carried out the scam from the comfort of her home.
The Blaze disclosed that “She and others named in the 206-count federal grand jury indictment allegedly recruited American citizens to act as ‘spouses’ to Vietnamese nationals in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.” However, Nguyen’s defense lawyer, Mar Carter, insists his client is innocent.
After the alleged criminal’s initial court appearance on Monday, carter informed KFSN-TV, “she has essentially become part of this indictment because she’s helped people.”
The attorney went on to claim, “The government in these detention hearings always try to make these salacious kind of statements and arguments.
They were also making a point to let the judge know she is a naturalized citizen that is somehow less than someone born here.” Nguyen and her common-law husband were denied bail.
They were ordered to be held until their trial date.
In a statement on Monday, Special HIS Agent in Charge Mark Dawson stated, “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.
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.” USCIS Houston District Director Tony Bryson also revealed in a statement Monday that “Marriage fraud is a serious crime.
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.”
Reportedly, the investigation involving Nguyen and others lasted for a year. According to ICE, the grand jury doled out the following criminal charges: “47 counts of marriage fraud; 50 counts of mail fraud; 51 counts of immigration fraud; [and] 51 counts of false statements under oath in a matter relating to registry of aliens.”
So, how much trouble are Nguyen and her colleagues facing? Ice reported that “Conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and tampering with a witness, victim or informant all carry possible 20-year federal prison sentences.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud or marriage fraud, those charged face up to five years in prison. The remaining charges all have maximum possible 10-year-terms of federal imprisonment.”
So much attention has been given recently, and rightly so, to the influx of migrants storming the U.S. southern border in an attempt to gain access into the country.
However, this sham marriage operation illustrates that not all people who enter America illegally do so at the southern border.
It’s just another reminder of how desperate people are to enter the United States and how vigilant governing officials must be to ensure those who are coming in are doing so by legal means.