Walking Down the Aisle for the Wrong Reason

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There are many reasons to get married, but using it as a means to gain U.S. citizenship is definitely a bad reason to walk down the aisle. A story published in The Dallas Morning News follows a family scheme headed up by a mother involving her children, her husband and several other family members. She and her co-conspirators used fake immigration documents, counterfeit birth certificates, bogus tax returns and committed identity theft in order to gain U.S. citizenship for undocumented immigrants for a fee.

According to the article, the mother and her daughter prepared and filed fraudulent applications for Family Unity Benefits. (These benefits allow the spouses and children of applicants to legally work and stay in the U.S. for two years.) The two made fake supporting documentation including counterfeit birth certificates, income tax returns and affidavits to make it appear that the undocumented immigrants were actually children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The duo also used real naturalization certificates and copies of permanent resident cards the mother acquired from her tax clients unbeknownst to her victims.

An undercover investigator blew the lid off the decades-long operation after posing as an undocumented immigrant, who needed a fake immigration application. (The mother eventually admitted to creating fake documents for more than 20 years, while the daughter was involved in the illegal process for more than 10 years.)

In all, nine family members were indicted on 10 counts that included conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. The 61-year-old mother and her 32-year-old daughter both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with immigration documents and aggravated identity theft. The mother was sentenced to 65 months in federal prison and is required to forfeit $45,850, while the daughter got a lesser 48-month prison sentence and must forfeit $21,710 for her part in the scam.

Other family members involved received smaller sentences. The mastermind’s 55-year-old husband was convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and sentenced to 6 months in prison. He also incurred a $2,000 fine. Three other children have already pleaded guilty to marriage fraud or conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. They each received two years of probation including 120 days of home confinement and fines ranging from $2,000 – $5,000.

It’s definitely a big decision when deciding to walk down the aisle. The punishment for this crime sets a great example for those considering committing the same crime – walking down the aisle for the wrong reasons can lead to walking down a different kind of aisle surrounded by jail cells.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Mother, Daughter Sentenced to Years in Federal Prison for Committing Marriage Fraud,” written by Robert Wilonsky and published by The Dallas Morning News on August 6, 2015.

In January 2014 nine people were indicted on 10 counts, chief among them: ”Conspiracy to Defraud the United States” and ”Conspiracy to Commit Marriage Fraud.”

That lengthy indictment, which is below, lays out a complex, decades-long scheme involving a 61-year-old mother, her 32-year-old daughter, seven other family members, phony immigration documents, counterfeit birth certificates, fraudulent tax returns and identity theft. The operation was undone in 2010 by an undercover government agent in Dallas ”posing as an illegal alien” in need of a phony immigration application, according to the indictment.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.