Nearly 100 people have been indicted, and 50 are in custody, for their alleged involvement in a large-scale marriage fraud scheme based out of Houston.
According to a news release, the suspects allegedly created sham marriages to illegally obtain admission and immigrant status for undocumented immigrants.
Officials say the spouses did not live together and only met briefly, if at all. According to ICE, the criminal organization also allegedly created fake wedding albums.
According to the release, each beneficiary spouse paid $50,000 to $70,000 to obtain full U.S. permanent resident status.
Investigators say others allegedly recruited other U.S. citizens to act as petitioners, who later became recruiters themselves.
Ashley Yen Nguyen, 53, of Houston was the alleged head of the organization and had associates in Texas and Vietnam.
Officials say 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 release, 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 the registry of aliens, and more.
Conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and tampering with a witness, victim or informant all carry possible 20-year federal prison sentences, officials say.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud or marriage fraud, the suspects could face up to five years in prison. The other charges all have maximum possible 10-year terms of federal imprisonment.
“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.”