True In Good Times and In Fraud

Applying for an Immigration visa.

Some people would say their marriage feels like a prison, where desire to escape in search of personal freedom is a common feeling. The most reliable way to actually make a marriage turn into a prison stay is to pay for a sham marriage, which is a federal crime. Better yet, engage in a sham marriage and then start up a sham marriage business. Which is what Ashley Yen Nguyen did, and now will be going to prison for the next 10 years.

Nguyen, an immigrant from Vietnam, was no stranger to sham marriages as that is how she herself became a U.S. citizen. Nguyen saw an opportunity and for more than four years used a mass-marketing campaign over social media to solicit Vietnamese immigrants wanting permanent resident status in the U.S. Her going rate was $70,000. This would become one of the largest marriage schemes ever, totaling almost 500 fake marriages.

Nguyen claimed to be an attorney to make the scheme appear legitimate. While she never passed the Bar, she understood what the Citizenship and Immigration Services wanted to see. Before the couples met, Nguyen provided fabricated facts to the fake spouses to study to prepare for their interviews with immigration officials. She would create fake wedding albums to make it appear as if a wedding ceremony had taken place above and beyond the marriage held at the courthouse.

The fake marriage scheme brought in $15 million for Nguyen for which she purchased several pieces of property where she conducted business. Not only did she pay Houston locals $200 for each U.S. spouse recruited, but those potential spouses were also promised installment plans between $15,000 to $20,000, although few ever came close to getting the full amount.

These couples had no intention of living together but that wasn’t a problem if authorities wanted to investigate. Nguyen would stage some of the rooms in her homes for the times authorities would request a site inspection. The rooms were setup to appear as if they belonged to the fake spouses.

Great job by the Homeland Security Department on bringing Nguyen to court.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article “Ringleader sentenced in $15M immigration scam that offered fake marriages in southwest Houston, across Texas” published by Click2Houston on October 27, 2022

The ringleader of a immigration scam that offered at least 40 fake marriages, U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery announced Thursday. Ashley Yen Nguyen, aka Duyen, 58, was the group’s ringleader and often provided a fake wedding album to help people obtain legal permanent resident status, according to prosecutors. She pleaded guilty on Nov. 5, 2020.

Nguyen will serve 120 months in federal prison, which will be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $334,605 in fines.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.