HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Fifty people are now in custody after a 206-count indictment criminally charged 96 people for their alleged roles in a large-scale marriage fraud scheme, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says.
According to ICE, the investigation targeted a suspected criminal organization allegedly committed marriage fraud order for illegal immigrants to obtain admission and immigrant status in the U.S.
The indictment alleges Ashley Yen Nguyen, also known as Duyen, was over the southwest Houston-based organization and had associates operating throughout Texas and Vietnam.
According to a release from ICE, charges revealed that each beneficiary spouse entered into an agreement with Duyen, 53, in which they paid about $50,000 to $70,000 to obtain full U.S. permanent resident status.
The agreements were allegedly prorated in that they would pay an additional amount for each immigration benefit they received, such as admission into the U.S., conditional U.S. permanent resident status and full U.S. permanent resident status.
ICE says the organization also made fake wedding albums that included photos to make it appear as if they had a wedding ceremony. In addition, the organization allegedly provided false tax, utility and employment information to help ensure USCIS would approve false immigration forms.
"These arrests mark the culmination of a comprehensive year-long, multi-agency investigation into one of the largest alleged marriage fraud conspiracies ever documented in the Houston area," said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of HSI Houston. "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."
Attorney Trang Le Nguyen, also known as Nguyen Le Thien Trang of Pearland, was also indicted for obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice and tampering with a witness, victim or informant, ICE says.
Nguyen, 45, allegedly prepared paperwork associated with at least one of the fraudulent marriages and told a witness who provided information to law enforcement to go into hiding, to not engage in any air travel that may alert federal law enforcement to her presence, and to not provide any further information to law enforcement.
Charges in this conspiracy included: 47 counts of marriage fraud, 50 counts of mail fraud; 51 counts of immigration fraud; 51 counts of false statements under oath in a matter relating to registry of aliens; and one count each of conspiracy to engage in marriage fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, conspiracy to make false statements under oath in a matter relating to registry of aliens, unlawful procurement of naturalization, obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice, and tampering with a witness, victim or informant.