Dozens in ICE custody after marriage fraud scheme

Gold wedding bands (Source: Pixabay, creative commons)

HOUSTON (WTHR) — Fifty people are in custody after 96 people were charged for roles in a large-scale marriage fraud conspiracy, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A federal court handed down more than 200 indictments. Charges for those in custody include marriage fraud, mail fraud, immigration fraud, false statements under oath and conspiracy charges. Charges for the 46 people who are not yet in custody are sealed.

According to Homeland Security Investigations, the arrests were the result of a yearlong investigation. Special Agent in Charge mark Dawson called it "one of the largest alleged marriage fraud conspiracies ever documented in the Houston area."

Police said 53-year-old Ashley Yen Nguyen, aka Duyen, led a criminal organization that created fraud marriages to illegally obtain admission and immigrant status into the United States.

The indictments of those in custody allege the suspects got married without having lived together, and never intended to do so. Police said the spouses barely knew each other, having only met immediately before getting a marriage license, or having never met at all.

These suspects allegedly paid Duyen about $50,000 to $70,000 to get U.S. permanent resident status.

The organization reportedly made fake wedding photos and tax, utility and employment information to make their relationships more believable.

The charges announced in the case so far carry maximum sentences from five years to 20 years in prison.