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Chinese man, daughter sentenced for marriage scam

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-04-25 11:42

A Chinese man and his daughter were sentenced Monday in Los Angeles for an immigration fraud scheme in which Chinese nationals paid tens of thousands of dollars to be "married" to US citizens.

Jason Shiao, 67, also known as "Zheng Yi Xiao," posed as an attorney and was sentenced to two years. His daughter Lynn Leung, 45, was sentenced last week to six months in prison.

The father operated the Pasadena, California-based Jason (USA) International Law Corp. He falsely claimed to be an attorney, paid US citizens thousands of dollars to participate in the scheme and introduced immigrants seeking lawful permanent residency to US citizens to facilitate the sham marriages.

The daughter lined up US citizen "spouses" for their clients, coached the couples on how to make the marriages appear genuine when questioned by immigration authorities, prepared and filed immigration petitions, and created fraudulent paper trails for the "couples" - including phony apartment leases, wedding photos, bank statements and income tax returns.

According to court documents, Chinese nationals paid up to $50,000 to enter into sham marriages with the hope of obtaining lawful permanent-resident cards. At least 87 foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, were involved in the scheme.

The pair were arrested in September 2015. In January, Shiao pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and marriage fraud. Leung also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

A third defendant charged in the case, Shannon Mendoza, 50, was transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where he also is being prosecuted on drug-trafficking charges based on conduct allegedly committed while on pre-trial release in the immigration fraud case.

He acted as a recruiter by finding US citizens who were willing to enter into sham marriages in exchange for payments of up to $15,000. Mendoza sought out prospective US citizen "spouses" who were in dire financial straits and then arranged for them to meet Shiao and Leung.

Court documents describe how the defendants went to considerable lengths to make the fake marriages appear real. According to Shiao's plea agreement, he and his daughter prepared documentation that was filed with USCIS to bolster the validity of the fraudulent marriages, including staged photographs of "wedding ceremonies" and bogus tax returns, life insurance policies, joint bank account information and apartment-lease applications.

The investigation in this case began in September 2012, based on information provided by an anonymous caller who contacted US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

This case was the result of an undercover investigation by the Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, which began in September 2012, based on an anonymous tip.

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