USCIS Assists in Investigation Leading to Conviction in Large Marriage Fraud Scheme

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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On April 25, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an interesting news post titled “USCIS Assists in Investigation Leading to Conviction of Imposter Attorney in Marriage Fraud Scheme” [link].

The news release explains that the USCIS had assisted in an investigation that led to a jury convicting a man named Jason Shiao for his role in a marriage fraud scheme. Shiao had posed as an attorney when he accepted payments from at least 87 foreign nationals to help them enter into fraudulent marriages with United States citizens for the purpose of circumventing the immigration laws. Shiao was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Marriage Fraud

The USCIS explains that, in executing the scheme, Shiao falsely claimed to be an attorney. Upon receiving payment, he introduced his clients to U.S. citizens to facilitate the sham marriages. He instructed clients to pose for wedding photographs and lie to USCIS officials when applying for immigration status. For these “services,” the USCIS notes that Chinese nationals paid Shiao up to $50,000.

Shiao and his daughter (a second defendant in the case) prepared falsified documentation to file with the USCIS attesting to the validity of the sham marriages. These documents included, but were not limited to, “bogus tax returns, life insurance policies, joint bank account information[,] and apartment lease applications.”

The scheme did not end with Shiao and his daughter. Another defendant in the case, Shannon Mendoza, recruited U.S. citizens to enter into the sham marriages in exchange for payments of up to $15,000.

In our article on Marriage Fraud [see article], we offer the following advice:

“Do not ever even consider entering into a sham marriage to obtain immigration benefits.”

In addition to being plainly against the law, the USCIS is well equipped to detect marriage fraud. The ramifications for marriage fraud are severe, and waivers are limited [see article].

Regarding nefarious individuals posing as “Attorneys” or “Consultants” and facilitating marriage fraud schemes, we wrote the following in our comprehensive Marriage Fraud article [see section]:

“Many aliens enter into sham marriages knowing full well that doing so is illegal. In these cases, the alien may get “help” from a U.S. citizen friend or even pay money to a U.S. citizen for the marriage. However, many aliens sadly enter into sham marriages without being fully aware of the potential consequences. Aliens should be wary of people seeking to “help” them who are “immigration consultants” or “advisers,” but who are not actual immigration attorneys qualified to practice immigration law. These people, in their many guises, are often responsible for filling out fraudulent applications on behalf of immigrants and encouraging them to enter into fraudulent marriages. It is absolutely crucial for persons who face a bar of inadmissibility or removal to contact a reputable and experienced immigration attorney, rather than working with someone who is neither qualified to give immigration advice nor acting in the immigrant's best interest.”

Those who are seeking status based on a bona fide marriage should consult with an experienced and well-credentialed immigration attorney for guidance. It is important to beware of hucksters and con-artists.

It is good to see authorities crack down on marriage fraud. In addition to circumventing our system of immigration laws, marriage fraud is extremely unfair to those who play by the rules to seek lawful immigration status.