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Immigration Fraud Marriage Attorney Sentenced in California

Immigration fraudster Jason Shiao was sentenced on Monday to two years in federal prison for posing as an attorney as part of a fraud scheme to match at least 87 foreign nationals, mostly citizens of China, seeking legal permanent resident status through arranged, fraudulent marriages to U.S. citizens.

Shiao, who also went by the name Zheng Yi Xiao, conducted the dangerous Pasadena-based illegal operation under the business name Jason (USA) International Law Corporation.

In January, Shiao pleaded guilty to visa fraud and marriage fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California.

Shiao and daughter Lynn Leung were arrested for the marriage fraud charges in September 2015. The USAO detailed allegations from court documents that Chinese nationals paid up to $50,000 per sham marriage, with hopes of obtaining green cards.

Dangers involved with immigration marriage fraud were highlighted in December 2015, when a married couple carried out an Islamic terror attack, killing 14 and wounding 22 more in San Bernardino, California. The wife, Tashfeen Malik, originally came to the U.S. on a K-1 fiancé visa and later married American Syed Rizwan Farook. The two died as in a standoff with police after the mass murder. Farook’s Islamic convert friend, Enrique Marquez, has pleaded guilty to previously conspiring to commit terror with Farook, and purchasing weapons for Farook that were used in the December 2015 terror attack. Marquez and other members of the Farook family have also faced charges of committing marriage fraud.

Shiao and Leung operated as the marriage arrangers, going to extreme lengths to make sham marriages appear legitimate and filing needed paperwork for their clients. The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated: “According to Shiao’s plea agreement, he and his daughter prepared documentation that was filed … to bolster the validity of the fraudulent marriages, including staged photographs of ‘wedding ceremonies’ and bogus tax returns, life insurance policies, joint bank account information and apartment lease applications.”

Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Los Angeles, said in 2015 upon news of the arrests, “Schemes like this not only undermine the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system, they pose a security vulnerability and potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve.”

Lynn Leung also pleaded guilty, but to conspiracy. She was sentenced last week to six months in prison.

A third member of the immigration marriage fraud scheme, Shannon Mendoza, has been marked as the recruiter of U.S. citizens to marry foreign national clients. U.S. citizens would allegedly be offered up to $15,000 for participating in the marriages to foreign nationals. Mendoza is currently being prosecuted on drug trafficking charges in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The additional offense was allegedly committed while on pre-trial release from the immigration fraud charges.

Chinese birthing schemes have also made headlines in immigration fraud news. Three such “maternity hotels” were raided in March 2015. Several customers of these businesses were identified as employees of the Chinese government. Chinese birth tourism clients also allegedly skipped out on hospital bills potentially totaling over $10 million dollars, according to court documents. Many fought to remain in the U.S. after the raids in order to still give birth in the U.S., giving their children claim to U.S. citizenship.

An anonymous tip made to HSI is credited with initiating the case in September 2012. The Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force launched an undercover investigation that led to the legal case against these individuals.

In January 2016, a California woman pleaded guilty for participating in a family fraud scheme that arranged fraudulent marriages for around 100 Indian nationals. Clients are said to have paid up to $60,000 for the fraud services. Court documents stated that U.S. citizens were each paid around $2,000 for participating in the sham marriages.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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