U.S.

Phony Marriage Scam for Non-Citizens Busted in Texas

An operation of phony marriages out of Texas to secure U.S. Green Cards for Vietnamese women was busted this week, according to federal prosecutors. The Houston Chronicle reported almost 100 people will face federal charges in a fake marriage scam where the money was real, and the love was fake.

Law enforcement officials said the operation run from the greater Houston area was big business, with up to $70,000 changing hands at times, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A year-long sting by authorities led officials to a 53-year-old named Ashley Yen Nguyen, also known as Duyen. Reports uncovered instances where couples met only a few moments before their marriage, and some of the so-called marriages came with photo album souvenirs of the special day.

Tony Bryson, who represents the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (ICE) District, said using marriage as a way to sneak people into the country is a “crime.”

“Marriage fraud is a serious crime,” Bryson said in a statement.

Prosecutors say legitimate marriages grant the foreigner access to live in the United States. But in the “sham marriage” bust, the “marriage” partners barely knew each other, yet they were fully-equipped with photos, marriage albums and other fake wedding momentos. Meanwhile, those setting up these arrangements pocketed thousands of dollars per faux ceremony. Prosecutors said people paid Duyen upwards of $70,000 per transaction to facilitate entry for others into the United States through phony marriages.

Paperwork also had to be involved, and this is where prosecutors say at least one person like Trang Le Nguyen, a 45-year-old attorney from nearby Pearland who went by the alias Nguyen Le Thien Trang, allegedly helped pushed paper and advise witnesses to hide after speaking with law enforcement during the year-long investigation.

Mark Dawson, who is an ICE special agent in the investigation, said it took multiple teams to piece together the scheme.

“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,” Dawson said.

The accused charged with mail fraud could face up to 20 years in prison while others charged could see 10 years behind bars.

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