California man, daughter accused of obtaining visas for Chinese citizens in $3.5M fraud
LOS ANGELES — An American man was told he could make $18,000 for marrying a Chinese woman who needed a green card, so he agreed to get hitched at a California wedding studio and then took an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas, where he posed in photos with his new wife.
But the man was gay and vacationing with his boyfriend, and the woman already had a husband. Until he revealed his sexual orientation to an immigration officer during a green card interview, both couples had been caught up in an elaborate marriage fraud scheme that has netted organizers $3.5 million since 2006, authorities say.
Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested Jason Shiao, a 65-year-old Southern California man they say posed as an attorney, and his 43-year-old daughter, Lynn Leung, on charges of conspiring to commit visa fraud by arranging phony marriages between Chinese citizens seeking legal residency and American spouses.
Authorities also charged Shannon Mendoza, 48, with recruiting Americans for the scheme. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were searching for Mendoza.
Shiao and Leung's Pasadena-based business filed more than 70 fraudulent immigration petitions since October 2006, authorities said. It advertised in Chinese-language newspapers in California and charged Chinese citizens who came to the United States on tourist visas as much as $50,000 for the company's services, ICE officials said.
The business paid some Americans to travel abroad and snap photos with clients to make the marriages look more authentic to immigration officers reviewing green card applications, authorities said.