The feds have broken up a massive, marriage-related immigration fraud ring, which had these features:
- It arranged for some 400 phony marriages between bribed U.S. citizens and aliens wanting green cards:
- It took in about $8 million in the process;
- It had a nationality base, as do many of these rings; six of the 11 co-conspirators were identified as Philippines nationals;
- It was bi-coastal (California and Massachusetts); and
- It was highly creative in the manner in which it treated bribed citizens when they failed to play their agreed-upon roles as co-conspirators; some citizen spouses once bribed fail to stay bribed long enough for the production of a green card.
Unfortunately, and again this is a pattern, those indicted did not include any of the bribed citizens or the bribing aliens, just the middlemen. Whether any of the alien bribers will be deported cannot be known at this time. Deportations are handled by the Department of Homeland Security; criminal charges, as in this case, are the work of the Justice Department.
The Office of the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts filed a 24-page indictment against Marcialito Benitez (aka Mars) and 10 others on April 4 with the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California subsequently filing supporting papers. The Massachusetts document charged the 11 with both “marriage fraud” and “immigration document fraud”. The east coast document is case 1:22-cr-10077-DJC in the PACER files. The press release summarizing the Massachusetts document can be seen here.
Two elements of the case strike me as unusual. The first is the sheer size of it, and the second is its mix of two different kinds of marriage-related immigration fraud: both bribing the citizen spouses and filing phony charges of abuse against them.
While citizen bribery is often the subject of criminal rings, phony charges of abuse by the citizen have been, until now anyway, a one-on-one activity, with an individual alien saying (often falsely) that the citizen was abusive in the marriage and therefore the alien spouse had a right to “self-petition” for a green card on the basis of the alleged abuse.
In the Mars case, however, the two techniques have been linked in an unusual way. In this operation, the first step appeared to be the bribed marriage; but in cases where the citizen either disappeared before a green card could be obtained, or in which the citizen balked when told to sign immigration documents, the ring used the false abuse technique to secure the green card for the alien client. The citizens in these cases were hardly in a position to cause trouble, having already been involved in the bribery situation.
The Massachusetts indictment covers, at great length, the various services the Mars outfit offered to its alien customers, typically in return for a $20,000 or $30,000 fee. It not only wrote the applications needed, trained the briber and the bribed on how to handle interviews with Homeland Security, and arranged and photographed the weddings, it also wrote inflated income tax returns to show that the citizen, indeed, was prosperous enough to undercut any potential public-charge challenge by DHS.
Did such inflated income tax returns actually produce more money for IRS? The indictment does not say.
The non-Filipinos indicted included one Brazilian and four U.S. citizens, all residents of California. Usually, these rings operate within one nationality.