Are you a Chinese immigrant looking for an American green card, or an American looking for some cash? If so, have you ever considered marriage?
Father-daughter pair Jason Shiao, 65, and Lynn Leung, 43, as well as a third person, Shannon Mendoza, 48, are currently being investigated for planning over 70 fake marriages from their Los Angeles office of Zhengyi & Associates—to the world, a functioning law office; to a few in-the-know clients, a criminal yenta, arranging marriages for up to $50,000 each.
The L.A. Times reports:
Authorities allege that the father-daughter team would help stage the weddings and honeymoons— complete with photo shoots —tend to the proper paperwork and coach the couples on how to appear legitimate. A few couples went to great lengths to deceive, holding wedding ceremonies in China.
On Wednesday, federal investigators seized documents and electronic equipment from a Pasadena office that they say Shiao used while falsely posing as an immigration attorney.
Green card marriages are an established thing—after all, The Proposal is our national movie—but authorities say they have yet to encounter an operation that tends to the arrangements in such thorough detail.
After three years of work, investigators from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have now located at least 23 U.S. citizens who have admitted to participating the program, in which a Chinese party in need of citizenship would pay $50,000 to Shiao, Leung and Mendoza, who would in turn find an eligible citizen, who would receive $10,000 for their trouble (although many say they never received the promised payment).
Shiao and Leung, who have reportedly made $3.5 million from the business, were arrested for conspiring to commit visa fraud. Mendoza is still at large.
Charles Arnold, ICE special agent, wants to remind readers that Shiao and Leung are not as hapless and good-natured as Ryan Reynolds and Sandy Bullock.
“[Green card marriages are] glamorized in Hollywood movies as you are helping someone out,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “The people who are facilitating this — they’re not in it to help someone out. They’re not a charitable organization. They’re just trying to line their pockets.”
Contact the author at email@example.com.
Image via Shutterstock.