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Document and Benefit Fraud
10/23/2009

Washington State pair sentenced to prison on immigration fraud charges

SEATTLE - The former owner of an immigration consulting business in King County, Wash., and his ex-wife were sentenced Oct. 23 in federal court on charges of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.)

Steven Mahoney, 41, of Kent, Wash., was sentenced to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Helen Mahoney, 39, also of Kent, was sentenced to six months in prison and two years of supervised released for her role in the conspiracy.

Steven Mahoney owned Mahoney and Associates where he counseled, advised and prepared immigration applications for immigrants seeking legal status to live in the United States. Helen Mahoney assisted in completing and submitting the applications to the federal government.

According to court documents, from October 1998 until June 2007, Steven Mahoney filed up to 99 false asylum claims on behalf of immigrants. The applications falsely stated that these individuals would be abused because they were homosexual, or they held religious or political views that would result in torture in their home countries.

Once the fraudulent applications were completed, Helen Mahoney submitted them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the federal agency that processes these documents. Court documents show that the Mahoneys knew these statements were not true for certain applicants, but still filed the claims.

The Mahoneys coached applicants on how to pursue immigration status based on these false claims. They were paid between $1,000 and $4,000 for each falsified application.

"Our nation's immigration laws are intended to provide benefits to individuals who meet certain criteria - not opportunists who manipulate the system for personal financial gain," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "ICE will continue to investigate those involved in these types of criminal schemes."

At sentencing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said, "I want to get the message out to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated."

ICE was joined in this investigation by USCIS.