Chinese man, daughter arrested in alleged marriage scam

Updated: 2015-09-10 09:27

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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A Chinese man and his daughter were arrested Wednesday morning in Los Angeles County in connection with an immigration fraud scheme in which Chinese nationals paid tens of thousands of dollars to be "married" to US citizens.

Jason Shiao, 65, who posed as an attorney, and his daughter, Lynn Leung, 43, lined up US citizen "spouses" for their clients, coached the couples on how to make the marriages appear genuine when questioned by immigration authorities, prepared and filed immigration petitions, and created fraudulent paper trails for the "couples" - including phony apartment leases, wedding photos, bank statements and income tax returns, according to a press release Wednesday by the US attorney's office for the Central District of California.

They were expected to appear in US District Court in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

A federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday alleges that Chinese nationals paid up to $50,000 to enter into sham marriages in the hopes of obtaining lawful permanent resident cards that would allow them to legally reside in the US.

"Marriage fraud presents a serious threat to the integrity of our immigration system by undermining programs designed to allow foreign nationals to come to the US in a fair and orderly fashion," said US Attorney Eileen M. Decker in the press release.

The case is the result of a three-year undercover probe by the Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force. The investigation began in September 2012 based on information provided by an anonymous caller who contacted Homeland Security Investigations (HIS)'s tip line.

To date, investigators have identified more than 70 fraudulent immigration applications associated with Shiao and Leung, with some dating as far back as October 2006 and others filed as recently as two months ago.

Authorities believe the defendants' clients learned about the service through word of mouth or from advertisements in Chinese newspapers.

The affidavit in support of the complaint describes how the defendants went to considerable lengths to make the unions appear real. For example, Shiao and Leung allegedly paid for one "couple" to visit the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas for a purported "honeymoon," and they allegedly held an actual marriage ceremony at the Dynasty Wedding Studio in Temple City.

According to the affidavit, however, most of the nearly two dozen "spouses" interviewed by investigators never received the amount they were promised.

"Hollywood may portray marriage fraud as a romantic farce, but it's a serious crime with serious implications," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Schemes like this not only undermine the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system, they pose a security vulnerability and potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve."

As part of Wednesday's enforcement action, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Shiao's Pasadena business, Zhengyi and Associates. During the search, authorities seized computers, electronic storage devices and documents thought to be related to the alleged marriage fraud scheme.

The charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison. In addition to prison time, if convicted, Shiao and Leung - who are dual citizens of China and Australia, and themselves lawful US permanent residents - face possible deportation.