More than 100 people are now facing federal charges in connection with an alleged sham marriage scheme. Investigators arrested dozens named in a 206-count indictment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas obtained a 206-count indictment from a federal grand jury alleging that organizers charged between $50,000 and $70,000 to arrange fake marriages between a foreign national and a U.S. citizen in order to obtain legal immigration status, KHOU reported. By Monday morning, investigators placed 50 people behind bars.
Ashley Yen Nguyen, a.k.a. Duyen, 53, is named as the head of the organization headquartered in southwest Houston, the local CBS affiliate reported. The organization reportedly has ties across Texas and Vietnam.
According to the KHOU report, each person wishing to come to the U.S. would pay between $50,000 and $70,000 to arrange a marriage to a U.S. citizen to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. The fees were allegedly prorated and would be paid as each step was achieved.
The indictment alleges that Duyen and others recruited U.S. citizens to act as petitioners in the sham marriages. They also received a portion of the proceeds from the beneficiary spouses who were moving to the U.S., KHOU reported.
“A sham marriage is a marriage that is entered into for the primary purpose of circumventing immigration laws. 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 documents and statements they submitted to USCIS,” according to a statement from the DOJ published by KTRH AM740. “The spouses only met briefly, usually immediately before they obtained their marriage license, or not at all, according to the charges. The spouses allegedly entered into the marriage pursuant to a financial arrangement for the primary purpose of circumventing U.S. immigration laws.”
Another person named in the indictment is Pearland, Texas, attorney Trang Le Nguyen aka Nguyen Le Thien Trang, 45, the KTRH report stated. The Pearland attorney is accused of obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice and tampering with a witness, victim, or informant.
The federal indictment remains sealed for those who have not yet been arrested.
If convicted in federal court, the conspirators could face between five and 20 years in prison.