Investigation uncovers marriage fraud ring

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have uncovered a marriage fraud ring operated out of Minnesota involving Hmong-Americans and Chinese nationals.

According to court documents that were unsealed on Oct. 29, Le Guo Wu of Philadelphia and Houa Vang of St. Paul have been charged with Conspiracy to “arrange, facilitate, and participate in marriages between Chinese citizens and citizens of the United States for the purpose of evading any provision of the United States immigration laws.”

The men face a second charge of Alien Smuggling for illegally bringing a Chinese national named in the indictment as Q.Z. to the United States, “for the purpose of commercial advantage and private gain.”

Beginning no later than January 2006, the indictment reveals an elaborate scheme allegedly perpetrated by the defendants to recruit, train and pay Americans to fraudulently marry Chinese nationals so that the Chinese spouse could remain in the United States by obtaining permanent resident.

In January 2006, Wu meets with K.X., an adult male. Wu assists K.X. in applying for a passport and a visa for entry into China. Later that month, Wu flies to China with K.X. and other United States citizens participating in the conspiracy, unnamed in the indictment.

Once in China, K.X. was instructed to generate evidence of his “relationship” with Q.Z., an adult female of Chinese origin. This evidence included taking multiple photographs taken of K.X. and Q.Z. together. K.X. was also given instructions for keeping in contact with Q.Z. to further document the fraudulent relationship.

Upon returning to the United States, Wu paid K.X. $5,000 as a first payment for K.X.’s participation in the marriage fraud.

Within the next few months, Wu would attempt to recruit S.L., L.L., and J.M.L. all adult females to enter into fraudulent marriages with Chinese aliens. No further details about their involvement was laid out in the indictment.

Wu would travel once again with K.X. to help facilitate Q.Z.’s visa-application interview at the United States Embassy in China. Apparently, Wu would travel with groups at a time—all apparently involved in the ring, though no one else has been named thus far.

The indictment alleges that K.X. was paid approximately $15,000 for his participation in the conspiracy.

The second charge of Alien Smuggling stems from the group’s involvement in bringing Q.Z. to America under the false pretense of a real marriage.

Throughout the indictment, other participants are mentioned but not named, nor is there clear information on the numbers of participants that are involved in the scheme.

ICE, the nation’s largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, have been involved in a number of marital fraud investigation. Just recently, Tina Tran, 47, of California was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her involvement as the ring leader in “Operation Newlywed Game,” a landmark three-year, multi-departmental investigation led by ICE targeting a marriage fraud scheme involving hundreds of Chinese and Vietnamese nationals.

Tran, who recruited participants for as many as 70 sham marriages and filed more than 100 bogus visa petitions on behalf of fake spouses and stepchildren, was arrested in November 2005.

According to ICE documents, the marriage fraud scheme, worked similar to the one uncovered in Minnesota. So far, the investigation has resulted in the more than 50 suspects being charged, involved a loose-knit network of “facilitators,” “recruiters,” and “petitioners” based in Orange County’s Little Saigon. At the heart of the conspiracy were the facilitators, including Tran, who charged up to $60,000 to orchestrate sham marriages for foreign nationals with U.S. citizens for the purpose of submitting fraudulent immigrant visa petitions on behalf of the aliens.

As with the California investigation, there is indication that the Minnesota investigation will take years to finalize. No ICE investigator could be reached for comments.

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