Father-Daughter Team Accused Of Staging Elaborate Green Card Marriages
A father and daughter were arrested for allegedly putting together dozens of phony marriages in a complex immigration scam that even involved fake honeymoons.Jason Shiao, 65, and Lynn Leung, 43, were arrested yesterday on charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Investigators say they're the brains behind over 70 fake immigration applications dating back over 10 years, the L.A. Times reports.
Shiao and Leung allegedly put together fake weddings and even honeymoons, with photos of the happy 'couple' in their fictitious marital bliss. Some couples even got married in China. The pair operated as Zhengyi & Associates out of an office building on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, and investigators narrowed in on them after an anonymous informant reported them to ICE in 2012.
Authorities say that the pair would charge Chinese men and women who wanted to immigrate to the U.S. as much as $50,000 in exchange for a new husband or wife, netting $3.5 million from their work. Investigators believe they advertised their services in Chinese newspapers.
The American spouse was usually someone who needed money, and some of them were homeless. During the staged weddings and honeymoons, couples would often stay in separate rooms and the informant told authorities that the couples weren't allowed to actually hang out on their own, live together or consummate there marriage, even if the wanted to. This particular informant was a Chinese man, who said he was told by Shiao that he shouldn't worry about the age difference between him and his new wife, because 88-year-olds marrying 20-year-olds was normal in American culture. He also said that Shiao's advice for what he should do after he got his green card was "get a divorce."
Another couple got married in Temple City, only a month after they met. The Chinese bride invited her husband to the wedding, and the U.S. man invited his boyfriend.
Shiao and Leung would handle all the paperwork, using a number of addresses that belonged to properties or mailboxes that they or employees of theirs actually owned. Authorities believe that the pair may have used the paperwork, which they controlled, as a means of getting more money out of their clients.
A third suspect, 48-year-old Shannon Mendoza, is currently wanted for her alleged involvement in the scheme, which included finding U.S. citizens who would agree to marry Chinese immigrants in exchange for $10,000. Many of the U.S. 'spouses' would later complain they were never paid for their services.
While marrying for a green card is a common ruse, and one that's often joked about in pop culture, the lengths Shiao and Leung allegedly went to aren't so common, according to investigators.
Claude Arnold, with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that these kind of operations are usually "much more underground or covert, not arranging as many marriages."
If convicted, Shiao, Leung and Mendoza could face up to five years in prison.