ALEXANDRIA, VA –
Nineteen of 22 charged individuals involved in a marriage and
immigration fraud scheme operating in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and
the District of Columbia were arrested today as part of a three-year
law enforcement task force operation.
Chuck Rosenberg, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of
Virginia; William Reid, Assistant Director of Investigations, U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Chief M. Douglas Scott,
Arlington County Police Department; Richard Trodden, Arlington County
Commonwealth’s Attorney; Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Police
Department; Greg Sebben, Special Agent-in-Charge, Office of the
Inspector General, Department of Commerce; Charles Pine, Special
Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service; Stephen Brunette, Special
Agent-in-Charge, Diplomatic Security Service, Department of State; and,
Phyllis Howard, Washington District Director, Bureau of Citizenship and
Immigration Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, made the
announcement at a press conference at the Arlington County Courthouse
following the arrests.
As described in the government’s affidavit, nine defendants are
alleged to have arranged marriages between aliens seeking immigration
benefits and United States citizens willing to enter into a sham
marriage for money. The next ten defendants are aliens who are alleged
to have entered into a sham marriage to gain immigration benefits and
avoid potential removal from the United States. The final three
defendants are United States citizens who married aliens and are
alleged to have signed false documents to assist the alien in obtaining
immigration benefits through fraud.
Aliens who participated in the fraud generally paid large fees,
between $2,500 and $6,000, to the defendants who facilitated sham
marriages. In exchange, the aliens were introduced to United States
citizens, generally on the day of the marriage. The aliens also then
had assistance in filing materially false immigration paperwork. The
United States citizens involved in the scheme generally were paid
approximately $500 on the day of the marriage, and an additional $300
per month from the alien for approximately one year.
“U.S. Citizenship is precious, and, for those who come to our country
from abroad, must be earned and not purchased” said U.S. Attorney
Arlington County Police Chief Scott stated, “Alert employees in the
Arlington Clerk’s Office noticed a pattern of suspicious marriages.
They brought it to our attention and we began a fraud investigation.
Detectives in our Vice Control Section uncovered evidence of a
conspiracy and then worked closely with our federal partners to bring
the suspects involved to justice.”
As alleged in the affidavit, the defendants who facilitated the sham
marriages also coached the sham “couples” about how to answer questions
during interviews conducted by the Department of Homeland Security,
Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS-CIS).
For instance, couples were told to memorize the name of their sham
spouse, learn false stories about how they met, and prepare answers to
questions about on which side of the bed they sleep. In addition, to
support the falsehood that a “couple” lived together, the “couple” was
instructed to obtain false documents showing a shared residence. Some
couples thus obtained state identification documents, utility bills,
insurance documents, and bank records listing a false, shared address.
Some couples were told to take photographs together so it would appear
they shared a life.
“Immigration and benefit fraud is not simply a nuisance crime, it
poses a serious security vulnerability and contributes to a host of
other types of crimes, including identity theft and financial fraud,”
said William Reid Assistant Director of Investigations for ICE. “The
goal of the task force is to identify, and dismantle the criminal
organizations behind these highly lucrative schemes, and to let the
perpetrators know that U.S. citizenship is not for sale.”
The investigation was conducted by a task force of federal and local
law enforcement agencies including: the U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE); the Arlington County Police Department; the Fairfax
County Police Department; the Diplomatic Security Service, Department
of State; the Internal Revenue Service; and the Office of the Inspector
General, Department of Commerce.
The task force received important assistance from several other
agencies including the Fraud Detection and National Security Unit
within DHS-CIS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant
United States Attorneys Beth Gibson and Jeanine Linehan are prosecuting
the case for the United States.
Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.