Federal authorities have arrested Jason Shiao (aka Xiao Zhengyi) and his 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 have also charged Shannon Mendoza, 48, with recruiting Americans for the scheme. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were still searching for Mendoza on Wednesday afternoon.
Shiao and Leung’s business based in Pasadena, California, filed more than 70 fraudulent immigration petitions since October 2006, netting more than $3.5 million, authorities said. The business (Jason International Law Corp. or Zhengyi & Associates) 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.
Shiao and Leung were ordered released on bond during a federal court hearing in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon. If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison, the U.S. attorney’s office said. As green card holders themselves, the father and daughter also could face the prospect of deportation.
Investigators determined that Shiao had been posing as an immigration lawyer, and he and Leung had been pairing up couples and snapping photos of them in bridal gear and on purported honeymoon trips in a bid to make their marriages seem legitimate to immigration officers, authorities said. The marriages took place in Las Vegas, China, and elsewhere. The fraudulent paper trails also included phony apartment leases, wedding photos, bank statements, and tax returns, according to prosecutors.
The American “spouses” were promised $10,000 each for their cooperation in the scheme. At least 23 U.S. citizens have admitted to being part of the scheme.
The ICE investigation began with an anonymous tip. ICE then sent a confidential informant with a wire to pose as a Chinese citizen in need of legal status, before executing a search warrant at the business.