2 Los Angeles-area residents arrested by ICE HSI in marriage fraud scheme; 2 alleged "beneficiaries" also arrested
LOS ANGELES – As part of a multistate investigation, two San Gabriel Valley residents were arrested this morning on federal charges that allege they orchestrated a scheme in which Chinese nationals paid up to $60,000 to enter into sham marriages with United States citizens in the hope of obtaining lawful permanent resident status – commonly called getting a "Green Card" – that would allow them to legally reside in the United States.
In addition to the two Los Angeles-area residents, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested two Chinese nationals who each paid tens of thousands of dollars to enter into sham marriages with United States citizens to obtain Green Cards. The United States citizens in these situations were actually undercover HSI agents.
The criminal complaint that led to the arrests outlines how the sham marriages were arranged and how the participants were coached to make their marriages appear legitimate. Specifically, the arrangers recruited United States citizens to enter into marriages with Chinese nationals, and then they filed immigration documents with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The arrangers coached the Chinese nationals and United States citizens on how to make their marriages appear genuine and pass interviews conducted by the USCIS, such as by creating a fraudulent paper trail for the couples and memorizing answers to questions immigration service officers could ask during their USCIS interviews.
The four defendants arrested Thursday morning are:
- Xiulan "Cindy" Wang, 46, of San Gabriel, the owner of Pacific Bizhub Consulting;
- Chang Yu "Andy" He, 54, of Monterey Park, the owner of Fair Price Immigration Service, who was taken into custody in San Diego County;
- Zhongnan Liu, 33, of San Diego, who allegedly paid for a sham marriage; and
- Huanzhang Wu, 28, of Saint Paul, Minnesota, who also allegedly paid for a "marriage" to obtain a Green Card.
A fifth defendant in this case is currently a fugitive being sought by authorities.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, in the course of arranging the sham marriages involving the undercover HSI agents, He coached the "couples" on how to make their relationships appear legitimate to bypass U.S. immigration laws. He allegedly instructed them to obtain joint bank accounts and joint apartment leases, 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.
The affidavit describes how the defendants went to considerable lengths to make the unions appear real. For example, He arranged one "marriage" ceremony at the Chapel of Love inside The Mall of America where Wu and an undercover agent took their wedding vows and swore under oath that the information they provided on their marriage license was true and accurate. After the ceremony and before leaving the mall, He paid the undercover agent $10,000, and then Wu and the undercover agent proceeded to file the marriage certificate with the county clerk.
The investigation in this case began in March 2017 based on information provided by an anonymous source. Law enforcement authorities believe the defendants' clients learned about the service through word of mouth or from advertisements in Chinese newspapers.
Wang made her initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles, and she was ordered released on a $100,000 bond. Wang's arraignment was scheduled for April 9.
Wu appeared earlier today in the District of Minnesota, where he was ordered detained pending further proceedings there on Monday. He and Wu are expected to make their first court appearances Friday in federal court in San Diego.
If they were to be convicted of the charge of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, each defendant named in this case would face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
This case is the result of a three-year undercover investigation by the Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, which is led by HSI and includes the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, and USCIS' Fraud Detection and National Security unit. The San Gabriel Police Department, the West Covina Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk assisted in the investigation.
This matter is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California's Riverside Branch Office.