HOUSTON – The ringleader of a immigration scam that offered at least 40 fake marriages, U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery announced Thursday.
Ashley Yen Nguyen, aka Duyen, 58, was the group’s ringleader and often provided a fake wedding album to help people obtain legal permanent resident status, according to prosecutors. She pleaded guilty on Nov. 5, 2020.
Nguyen will serve 120 months in federal prison, which will be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $334,605 in fines.
According to the court ruling, Nguyen utilized mass-marketing to facilitate the scheme by advertising it through recruiters and Facebook. Nguyen had also claimed to be an attorney who had contacts within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services so as to make the scheme appear legitimate.
During the hearing, Vietnamese nationals testified that they would give Nguyen’s group $50,000 to $70,000 to marry a wife or husband in the United States to fraudulently obtain lawful permanent resident status, according to a release. Nguyen issued routine payments of approximately $200 to those U.S. citizens who acted as recruiters in the fake immigration proceedings. Nguyen also promised the U.S. citizens who participated as spouses between $15,000 and $20,000 in installments, although few ever came close to getting the full amount.
Prosecutors said Nguyen ran the marriage fraud organization out of the southwest Houston area but had associates operating across Texas and in Vietnam. As part of her plea, she admitted to conspiring to engage in marriage fraud, mail fraud, immigration fraud, money laundering and making false statements in a tax return.
Nguyen’s criminal organization was responsible for organizing well over 500 sham marriages in exchange for substantial amounts of money solely for the alien beneficiary to obtain immigration benefits, according to prosecutors. The criminal organization has received over $15 million from this scheme.
Nguyen used well over a dozen recruiters of U.S. citizen spouses in the Houston vicinity and advertised via social media about the scheme in Vietnam. Many of the U.S. citizens had extensive criminal histories, gang associations and crippling drug additions, according to a release.
During her plea, Nguyen admitted that the fake spouses did not live together and did not intend to live together, contrary to documents and statements submitted to federal authorities. At her instruction, the spouses only met briefly, immediately before they obtained their marriage license or not at all. To prepare the fake spouses for their interviews with immigration officials, Nguyen and her criminal organization provided fabricated facts to the fake spouses to study and recite details to falsely establish the pair was living together and familiar with each other’s daily habits, according to prosecutors.
The criminal organization even prepared and provided fake wedding albums containing photographs to make it appear as if they had a wedding ceremony above and beyond a marriage at a courthouse, prosecutors stated.
Nguyen purchased multiple residences with the criminal proceeds, according to the release. She used them as part of the scheme to either collect, distribute the proceeds and/or stage some of the rooms for the times when authorities indicated they would conduct a site inspection. The rooms were setup to appear as if they belonged to the fake spouses.
Nguyen herself also entered the United States through a sham marriage, according to prosecutors.
She will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
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