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Document and Benefit Fraud

Federal grand jury indicts 9 in Connecticut marriage fraud case

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A federal grand jury returned an indictment Wednesday in Bridgeport charging nine individuals for their alleged participation in a marriage fraud scheme.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted an investigation jointly with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that led to the indictment charging each of the following individuals with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud:

  • Fouad Elhadiri, 31, of Waterbury, Conn.;
  • Bahija Saadoun, 36, of West Haven, Conn.;
  • Hamid Kassem, 38, of West Haven;
  • Ebony Kashann Jaynes, 36, of New Haven, Conn.;
  • Rachid Saadoun, 27, of West Haven;
  • Khalid Kassem, 41, of West Haven;
  • Dawn Peck, 34, of Madison, Conn.;
  • Fatima Saadoun, 25, of West Haven; and
  • Gino Kousa, 48, of Bridgeport.

According to court records, in November 2010, ICE HSI initiated an investigation into fraudulent marriages allegedly arranged between Moroccan nationals and U.S. citizens. The marriages allowed Moroccan nationals to unlawfully immigrate to the U.S. The investigation included the use of consensual recordings, an examination of immigration and airline records, and other information.

The investigation revealed that Elhadiri allegedly arranged a fraudulent marriage between his brother, a Moroccan national and a woman who is a U.S. citizen. Elhadiri allegedly provided the U.S. citizen with several thousand dollars and a trip to Morocco in September 2007. In exchange, she agreed to file a petition for Elhadiri's brother to enter the United States so she could marry him. The U.S. citizen married Elhadiri's brother in New Haven in May 2008.

It is further alleged that in 1999, Bahija Saadoun entered into a fraudulent marriage with a U.S. citizen. In recent years, she also allegedly arranged fraudulent marriages between her brother Rachid Saadoun, a Moroccan national, and Jaynes, a U.S. citizen; her sister Fatima Saadoun, a Moroccan national, and Kousa, a U.S. citizen; and her brother-in-law Khalid Kassem, a Moroccan national, and Peck, a U.S. citizen. Jaynes, Kousa and Peck also are alleged to have received money and trips to Morocco for agreeing to enter into the fraudulent marriages. Hamid Kassem, who is Bahija Saadoun's second husband, is alleged to have cosponsored the immigration applications for his brother, Khalid Kassem, and his sister-in-law, Fatima Saadoun.

The charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum five-year prison term and a fine of up to $250,000.

The indictment also charges, Elhadiri, Hamid Kassem, Jaynes, Rachid Saadoun, Peck and Kousa with making a false swearing in an immigration matter. This charge carries a maximum 10-year prison term and a fine of up to $250,000. Each of the defendants was arrested by criminal complaint on Oct. 6, 2011.

This matter has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz in New Haven. U.S. Attorney David B. Fein, District of Connecticut, stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt, that charges are only allegations, and that each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

ICE HSI and USCIS received investigative assistance from USCIS's Office of Fraud Detection and National Security Unit. The Connecticut State Police and police departments in Norwalk, Trumbull, Bridgeport and Naugatuck also provided assistance.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Kale.