50 people are now in law enforcement custody after a 206-count indictment criminally charging 96 people for their alleged roles in a large-scale marriage fraud scheme. The charges allege Ashley Yen Nguyen, AKA Duyen, 53, of Houston, headed the Southwest Houston-based organization and had associates operating throughout Texas and Vietnam.
The 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 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 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.
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.
According to the charges, each beneficiary spouse entered into an agreement with Duyen in which they would pay approximately $50,000 – $70,000 to obtain full lawful 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 permanent resident status and full lawful permanent resident status.
The criminal organization 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 rather than 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.
In addition, Duyen recruited other United States citizens to act as petitioners in the sham marriages who received a portion of the proceeds received from the beneficiary spouses.
Several individuals that were recruited as petitioners soon after became recruiters themselves, according to the allegations.
“Marriage fraud is a serious crime. This indictment reveals how successful our working relationships are with our law enforcement and intelligence partners when it comes to investigating marriage fraud,” said District Director Tony Bryson of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “USCIS remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring national security, public safety and the integrity of the immigration system.”
Also indicted is attorney Trang Le Nguyen aka Nguyen Le Thien Trang, 45, of Pearland, 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, not engage in any air travel that may alert federal law enforcement to her presence and not provide any further information to law enforcement.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Laurence Goldman, Michael Day and Kate Suh, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.