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Document and Benefit Fraud
12/23/2008

3 convicted for their roles in a massive marriage fraud ring

21 others have already pleaded guilty

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Two men and a woman were convicted by a federal jury Monday for their roles in a massive marriage fraud operation that was centered in Minneapolis-St. Paul. These convictions are the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from federal and state law enforcement agencies.

After less than two hours of deliberation, a jury found Mingwen Yang, 26, unknown address; Guangping Lin, 29, unknown address; and Yanxia Tang, 24, unknown address; each guilty of conspiring to commit marriage fraud and aiding and abetting marriage fraud. The three were indicted April 15 along with 40 other defendants.

Yang, Lin, and Tang are Chinese nationals who entered into sham marriages with U.S. citizens to fraudulently obtain U.S. visas. They each face up to five years in prison for conspiracy and five years for aiding and abetting marriage fraud.

The marriage fraud ring involved recruiting U.S. citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages with Chinese nationals so that the Chinese nationals could obtain visas and other immigration benefits. Between 2002 and November 2007, the defendants conspired to enter into marriages between Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws.

"America's legal immigration system is not for sale, and we will aggressively target anyone who compromises that system's integrity to profit illegally," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office of investigations in Bloomington, Minn. "Marriage fraud, and all immigration-benefit fraud, poses a potential security threat. It creates a vulnerability which illegal aliens, criminals, and terrorists can exploit to remain in this country."

"The goal of this conspiracy was for individuals to profit by assisting Chinese nationals in illegally obtaining visas and other immigration benefits," said U.S. Attorney Frank J. Magill. "These convictions and plea agreements prove that the lies and deceit used by some to violate our nation's immigration laws won't be tolerated, and that we will maintain the integrity of our nation's borders by prosecuting these types of crimes."

Two of the men who arranged these fraudulent marriages were sentenced in September. Each pleaded guilty to conspiring to profit financially from arranging, facilitating and participating in fraudulent marriages. Le Guo Wu, 31, of Philadelphia, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Houa Vang, 24, of St. Paul, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and two years of supervised release.

The 21 defendants, all Minnesota residents, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit marriage fraud are: Nou Chang, 25, St. Paul; Kaneeka Chanthavong, 25, Brooklyn Park; Vang Her, 26, St. Paul; Andmire Kissluv Lee, 28, St. Paul; Chee Chengshua Lee, 25, Brooklyn Center; Chue Dou Vang, 30, Mankato; David Ku Vang, 30, Maplewood; Pao Vang, 25, St. Paul; Falamena Vue, 22, St. Paul; Annie Pafoua Xiong, 24, Oakdale; Tou Kao Xiong, 24, Fridley; Toua Xiong, 27, St. Paul; Cheng Yang, 28, South St. Paul; Chue Yang, 24, St. Paul; Joe Yang, 27, Minneapolis; Koua Yang, 22, St. Paul; Thomas Yang, 25, Walnut Grove; Lyfoung Yang, 26, Brooklyn Center; Soua Vang, 28, Woodbury; Kao Vang, 28, St. Paul; and Tou Kao Yang, 27, Brooklyn Park.

These 21 defendants each face up to five years in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson will determine their sentences at a future date. The other 19 defendants of the 40 indicted have yet to make their initial appearances in federal court.

According to the plea agreements, the object of the conspiracy was to facilitate entry into and residence within the United States by Chinese nationals (the beneficiaries) through fraudulent marriages to U.S. citizens (the petitioners). The petitioners traveled to China to facilitate the unlawful entry of the Chinese nationals into the United States. The petitioners received up to $25,000, minus travel expenses to and from China, in exchange for their participation in the scheme.

Chinese beneficiaries paid to participate in the scheme to secure fraudulent entry into the United States. The purported relationship between petitioners and beneficiaries was documented with false evidence designed to give the appearance of a legitimate relationship prior to the marriage. If a beneficiary successfully entered the United States, the petitioner and beneficiary often participated in a civil marriage ceremony to obtain a marriage license.

This case is the result of an investigation by ICE's Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, which includes the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys LeeAnn K. Bell and David M. Genrich.