A Chinese father-daughter sham wedding business has been uncovered by US immigration authorities in Pasadena, California. They have allegedly made millions by arranging marriages to get Chinese citizens US residency.
US immigration authorities arrested a Chinese father and daughter in California on Wednesday under allegations that the pair were orchestrating up to 70 sham marriages between Chinese citizens looking for US visas and Americans in dire financial straits.
Police raided the offices of Jason Shiao, who had been posing as an attorney, and his daughter Lynn Leung and charged them with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, the Los Angeles Times reported. Authorities said they had made around $3.5 million (3.1 million euros) with the scam since 2006.
One man was told he could make $18,000 by marrying a Chinese woman who needed a green card, even though he was homosexual and she was already married. He was then flown to Las Vegas to take pictures with his wife for their “honeymoon.” In some cases, the Americans used in the scheme were even flow back to China for photographs to make the marriages look more authentic to immigration authorities.
Shiao and Leung’s business advertised in Chinese-language newspapers in California and charged Chinese citizens up to $50,000 for their services.
Authorities were still seeking their associate, 48-year-old Shannon Mendoza on Wednesday. Is it thought Mendoza was in charge of recruiting US nationals for the scheme.
Sham marriage romanticized by Hollywood
Claude Arnold, the special agent in charge of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) homeland investigations in Los Angeles, said marriage fraud has been rampant for more than twenty years – and is often sold to Americans as a charitable undertaking.
“It is glamorized in Hollywood movies as you are helping someone out,” Arnold said. “The people who are facilitating this – they’re not in it to help someone out. They’re not a charitable organization. They’re just trying to line their pockets.”
Most of the nearly two dozen Americans interviewed by ICE for the investigation said they never received the money they were promised.