Federal Case Highlights Marriage Fraud

How much is a green card worth? Likely more than you think.

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 18, 2020

On November 4, Chang Yu "Andy" He, a California resident and owner of the "Fair Price Immigration Service", pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in connection with a scheme to coordinate sham marriages between Chinese nationals and U.S. citizens in exchange for some serious cash. The case highlights the pervasiveness of — and potential profit from — such fraud.

According to the plea agreement in the case, between January 2018 and November 2019, He recruited citizens to enter into marriages with Chinese nationals, who then applied for immigration benefits with USCIS.

As ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) explains, the case arose as part of an undercover investigation by HSI's Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, starting in March 2017, when HSI received a tip from an anonymous source. At least three HSI agents were tasked with going undercover and impersonating citizens interested in marrying three Chinese nationals in exchange for payment.

In one of the cases orchestrated by He, an HSI agent met with Xiaojun Han, a 40-year-old Chinese national, to enable Han to enter into a sham marriage and apply with USCIS for a green card. The agent got $10,000 up front to enter into the marriage, and He told the agent that he would get $25,000 when Han received her lawful permanent resident status and an additional $5,000 at the end of the process.

The defendant admitted that he coached the faux partners in navigating the immigration process, including by creating a paper trail (such as joint bank accounts and joint apartment leases) and having them memorizing answers to questions that USCIS was likely to ask.

In addition, He instructed the pairs to "keep clothes in the apartments where the couples supposedly lived together, and visit the apartment several days a week so the neighbors would see them together." As I noted in a November 3 post, "site visits" by USCIS at the purported marital residence "are not standard operating procedure in all cases, but not completely unheard of, either." Especially where there are indicators of fraud.

As part of this scheme, He met with the undercover agent at a public library in Rosemont, Calif., to prepare Han's paperwork. In addition, He also met with an unnamed co-defendant and two other agents to arrange additional bogus unions.

HSI speculates that clients learned about these services through advertisements in Chinese newspapers and the old-fashioned way — through "word of mouth". The word definitely got out — one of He's clients is from St. Paul, Minnesota.

In any event, He is facing up to five years in prison. And speaking of his clients, two co-defendants who paid for his services have pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud; one received a year probation, and the other was awaiting sentencing.

Han and another individual involved in the matter, Xiulan "Cindy" Wang, ostensibly have not pled. Their cases are scheduled for March 16. Wang is identified as "the owner of Pacific Bizhub Consulting", but it is not clear whether she was a potential bride, or a business partner of He.

Apparently, aliens who are interested in such illicit engagements are willing to pay a high price. Chinese nationals involved in He's arrangements paid up to $60,000, explaining why would-be fraudulent spouses could receive an estimated $40,000 for their assistance. How much is a green card worth? Likely more than you think.