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Houston couple sentenced to federal prison for transporting more than 100 illegal aliens


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Houston couple sentenced to federal prison for transporting more than 100 illegal aliens

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A Houston couple was sentenced to federal prison Monday for knowingly and intentionally conspiring to transport illegal aliens.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Kevin Kerr, 32, and Brianna Branch, 30, who pleaded guilty to the charges Aug. 29, were sentenced to 85 months and 70 months respectively. Both will also serve three years of supervised release following the completion of their sentence.

In imposing the sentence, the court determined Kerr and Branch to be leaders of the conspiracy which spanned a three-month period in early 2019. The court noted the dangerous manner in which the aliens were transported.

Kerr and Branch were held accountable for the smuggling of more than 100 aliens, including several minors, past South Texas U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) checkpoints. The couple would recruit drivers from the Houston area to travel to South Texas and place the undocumented aliens in utility trailers.

They will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

A total of four other members of the conspiracy have also pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy and are pending sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Neel Kapur is prosecuting the case.






USCIS Helps Detect Marriage Fraud Ring

Release Date: Aug. 20, 2019

The Bridgeport resident pleaded guilty to arranging numerous fraudulent marriages so noncitizens could obtain Green Cards.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — John H. Durham, United States attorney for the District of  Connecticut; the acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Boston; and a supervisory immigration officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS), announced that Jodian Stephenson, also known as “Jodian Gordon,” 35, of Bridgeport, pleaded guilty on Aug. 19, in New Haven federal court to a conspiracy charge stemming from her arrangement of numerous fraudulent marriages so that non-U.S. citizens would receive U.S. immigration benefits.

USCIS officials within the FDNS Directorate learned of the potential fraudulent marriages to obtain Green Card benefits in 2016 and began collaborating with HSI investigators to reveal numerous cases of marriage fraud.

“We at USCIS take marriage fraud – and all fraud – seriously,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “I commend the professionalism of the USCIS staff that reported the attempts to defraud our immigration system, and our officers who are partnering with HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut to investigate these claims. I also thank our law enforcement partners for their efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. Let this serve as a reminder that if you partake in fraudulent activity, you will get caught.”

According to court documents and statements made in court, Stephenson operated Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services LLC, in Bridgeport. Between 2011 and 2017, Stephenson conspired with others to arrange 28 sham marriages between U.S. citizens and noncitizens residing in the U.S. so the non-citizens’ could apply for and obtain lawful permanent residence (LPR) status, also known as getting a Green Card.




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One of the 28 sham marriages was between Stephenson, who is a citizen of Jamaica, and a U.S. citizen.

For each of the other 27 fraudulent marriages, Stephenson found and introduced a U.S. citizen to be the noncitizen’s purported spouse and helped the couple obtain a marriage license. She also organized the marriage ceremony and celebration, and coached the couple on how to make their marriage appear to be genuine despite their neither living together nor otherwise intending to remain actually married.

As part of the scheme, Stephenson prepared several immigration documents needed as part of the noncitizen’s LPR application. She had the applicant and spouse sign the documents and, in many cases, mailed the documents to the USCIS immigration authorities for the applicant. In some cases, Stephenson or her assistants prepared other false documents for the couple, such as a false lease that portrayed the couple as living together.

Stephenson typically charged between $17,000 and $20,000 to complete this process for a noncitizen, and the citizen spouse received between $2,000 and $4,000 for their participation.

During the investigation, Stephenson offered to arrange a sham marriage for a federal law enforcement agent working in an undercover capacity, and help them obtain a Green Card in exchange for a proposed fee of $20,000. In recorded conversations, Stephenson then introduced the undercover agent to a U.S. citizen and advised them about the ways they could create the appearance that they were legally married and living together as husband and wife.

Stephenson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud. She faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years when U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea sentences her in Hartford. A sentencing date is not scheduled.

Stephenson has been released on a $250,000 bond since her arrest on June 22, 2018.

Six other individuals involved in this scheme previously pleaded guilty.

On Dec. 5, 2018, Donovan Lawrence, of Milford, who operated Donovan’s Accounting Services LLC, in Bridgeport, pleaded guilty to his role in this conspiracy. In addition, four U.S. citizens who entered into one or more fraudulent marriages with noncitizens, and one noncitizen who entered into a fraudulent marriage with a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty. All await sentencing.

HSI and FDNS are conducting the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry K. Kopel is prosecuting the case.







5/19/2019

Five Individuals Involved in Marriage Fraud Scheme Plead Guilty


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that five individuals have pleaded guilty in Hartford federal court to charges related to their participation in fraudulent marriages so that non-U.S. citizens would receive U.S. immigration benefits.  The fifth defendant pleaded guilty this afternoon.

According to court documents and statements made in court, four of the defendants are U.S. citizens who entered into one or more fraudulent marriages with non-citizens, and sponsored each non-citizen’s fraudulent application for lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) status, also known as a “green card.”  A fifth defendant is a non-citizen who entered into a fraudulent marriage with a U.S. citizen to obtain green card status.

On February 4, 2019, Marvin Williams, 60, of New York, New York, pleaded guilty and admitted that he entered into four fraudulent marriages with non-citizens, and sponsored all four of their fraudulent LPR/green card applications.

On March 6, 2019, Ricky Owen, 39, of Bridgeport, pleaded guilty and admitted that he entered into two fraudulent marriages with non-citizens, and sponsored both of their fraudulent LPR/green card applications.


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On April 1, 2019, Kenol Noel, 35, of Bridgeport, pleaded guilty and admitted that he entered into two fraudulent marriages with non-citizens, and sponsored both of their fraudulent LPR/green card applications.

On April 24, 2019, Dwight Henry, 44, a citizen of Jamaica residing in Queens, New York, pleaded guilty and admitted that he entered into a fraudulent marriage with a U.S. citizen, and submitted a fraudulent application for LPR/green card status.

Today, Carl Jarrett, 36, of Bridgeport, pleaded guilty and admitted that he entered into a fraudulent marriage with a non-citizen, and sponsored her fraudulent LPR/green card application.

Each of the five defendants, who were arrested in November 2018 after they were charged by indictment, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit marriage/immigration fraud.  At sentencing, each faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years.

This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security.  The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry K. Kopel.

For more information on USCIS and our programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).






5/13/2019

Nearly 100 people indicted, 50 currently in custody in massive Houston-based marriage fraud conspiracy


HOUSTON — Fifty people are now in law enforcement custody following last week’s return of a 206-count indictment criminally charging 96 people for their alleged roles in a large-scale marriage fraud scheme. 

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Houston. 

A federal grand jury returned the massive indictment April 30, 2019. The indictment remains sealed for those charged but not yet in law enforcement custody.

“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,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson, 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.”

This investigation targeted a suspected criminal organization allegedly operating a large-scale marriage fraud scheme to create sham marriages to illegally obtain admission and immigrant status for aliens in the United States.




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The indictment further alleges Ashley Yen Nguyen, aka Duyen, 53, of Houston, headed the Southwest Houston-based organization and had associates operating throughout Texas and the Republic of Vietnam.

“Marriage fraud is a serious crime,” said District Director Tony Bryson, USCIS Houston. “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.”




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Individuals enter into sham marriages primarily to circumvent U.S. 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 the official documents and statements they submitted to USCIS. The spouses only met briefly, usually immediately before they obtained their marriage license, or not at all.

>According to the criminal charges, each beneficiary spouse entered into an agreement with Duyen 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 United States, conditional U.S. permanent resident status and full U.S. permanent resident status.



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In addition, Duyen and others allegedly recruited other U.S. citizens to act as petitioners in the sham marriages who received a portion of the proceeds received from the beneficiary spouses. Several individuals who were recruited as petitioners soon afterwards became recruiters themselves. Others were also allegedly in charge of receiving the proceeds from the beneficiary spouses and disbursing the payments to the petitioners.

The indictment also charges several individuals to act as guides for U.S. citizen petitioners who allegedly travelled to Vietnam under the guise they were going to meet his/her fiancée/fiancé. In truth, according to the indictment, they were beneficiary spouses paying the criminal organization to circumvent U.S. law.

This criminal organization also allegedly prepared fake wedding albums which were provided to the petitioner and beneficiary spouse that included photographs to make it appear as if they had a wedding ceremony above and beyond a simple courthouse marriage. The indictment further alleges the criminal organization provided false tax, utility and employment information to help ensure USCIS would approve the false immigration forms.



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Attorney Trang Le Nguyen, aka Nguyen Le Thien Trang, 45, of Pearland, Texas, was also indicted for obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice and tampering with a witness, victim or informant. According to the indictment, Nguyen 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.

These criminal charges include: 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.



    
   
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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.

 “The following agencies participated in last week’s operation to arrest the indicted individuals:  HSI Houston, USCIS Houston, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Fort Bend County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office, Harris County (Texas) Constable’s Office Precinct 5, Houston Police Department, Harris County (Texas) Sheriff's Office and Texas Department of Public Safety.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Laurence Goldman, Michael Day and Kate Suh, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

An indictment is an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.


Source: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/nearly-100-people-indicted-50-currently-custody-massive-houston-based-marriage-fraud#wcm-survey-target-id


5/13/2019

假結婚騙綠卡 涉案近百人 遭控206罪

(World Journal) 編譯孫梁

聯邦當局破獲一個移民以假結婚獲得身分的詐欺集團,執法人員13日在德州逮捕50個團夥成員,對共96名團夥成員提出206項控告,包括47項假結婚、50項郵件詐欺、51項移民詐欺和51項偽造宣誓證件,他們辦假結婚的收費為5萬到7萬元。

這一詐欺集團位於休士頓,主謀是53歲的越裔阮燕(Ashley Yen Nguyen,以下均音譯),為她服務的成員分布在德州和越南。

對假結婚詐欺案的調查是移民及海關執法局(ICE)、國土安全部調查部門的休士頓分部,以及公民及移民服務局(USCIS)的休士頓分支共同負責,USCIS的休士頓負責人表示,婚姻詐欺是重罪。



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司法部聲明說,這個犯罪集團從2013年8月開始,繞過美國的移民法,通過辦假結婚幫助所謂的外國配偶來美。但因所有被控的集團成員尚未全部抓捕歸案,因此對他們的具體指控尚未對外公布。

調查人員說,這個集團在美國尋找「假妻子」和「假丈夫」,然後由他們申請與外國人結婚,每個外國人收費5萬到7萬元。申請假結婚的部分人還前往越南「相親」,許多申請人最終成為同犯,幫助阮燕招募其他公民替外國人申請假結婚。

詐欺集團按階段收費,包括入境美國和綠卡到手等。簽約與外國人辦假結婚的美國公民,也可從對方獲得好處費。



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該集團在簽下假結婚合約後,向移民當局提交有欺詐內容的文件,包括偽造報稅和就業證明。他們還準備假結婚照,以顯示雙方舉行過正式婚禮,然後交給法庭。但結婚雙方並不住在一起,與向USCIS提交的文件完全不同。假結婚的雙方在短暫會面後就申領結婚證,有人甚至沒見面也拿到結婚證。

該詐欺集團派除被控結婚詐欺外,還面臨郵件詐欺和篡改證據等罪名,如果罪成,每項控罪將面臨最多20年監禁。

為假結婚者準備材料的德州越裔律師阮昌樂(Trang Le Nguyen),被控妨礙司法和威脅證人、受害人與線人,要他們不得向執法部門舉報等。









Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 13, 2019

Court Finds RM Broadcasting Must Register as a Foreign Agent

U.S. District Court Judge Robin L. Rosenberg has ruled that a Florida-based company, RM Broadcasting LLC (RM Broadcasting), was acting as an agent of a foreign principal and must register as such under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA).

The Department of Justice contended in a civil counterclaim that RM Broadcasting has been acting as an agent of the the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency (Rossiya Segodnya), a Russian state-owned media enterprise created by Vladimir Putin to advance Russian interests abroad.  The litigation marked the first FARA civil enforcement action since 1991.  Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida made the announcement.

“The American people have a right to know if a foreign flag waves behind speech broadcast in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Our concern is not the content of the speech but providing transparency about the true identity of the speaker.  This case shows that the Department can and will utilize all of its tools to bring transparency to efforts by foreign entities to influence the American public and our government, and demonstrates our renewed effort to enforce FARA rigorously.”

In November 2017, RM Broadcasting and Rossiya Segodnya entered into a services agreement pursuant to which RM Broadcasting would provide for the broadcast of Rossiya Segodnya’s “Sputnik” radio programs on AM radio channel 1390 WZHF in the Washington, D.C. region.  Under this agreement, RM Broadcasting could not alter Rossiya Segodnya’s radio programs in any way.  As the services agreement established Rossiya Segodnya’s direction and control over RM Broadcasting, the FARA Unit of the National Security Division informed RM Broadcasting that it was acting as a publicity agent and an information-service employee of Rossiya Segodnya and was required to register as an agent of a foreign principal.

RM Broadcasting initiated the proceeding in the Southern District of Florida seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not have to register as an agent of a foreign principal.  The Department responded by filing a counterclaim seeking an injunction to require RM Broadcasting to register.  Earlier this week, the court granted the Department’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.  A final judgment directing RM Broadcasting to register under FARA is expected.

This case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Feeley and Trial Attorney Nicholas Hunter of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

About FARA

The purpose of FARA is to protect the national defense, internal security, and foreign relations of the United States by requiring public disclosure by persons engaging in political activities and other activities for or on behalf of foreign governments, foreign political parties and other foreign principals so that the Government and the people of the United States may be informed of the identity of such persons and may apprise their statements and actions in the light of their associations and activities.












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