Pasadena Woman, Father Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud and Marriage Fraud

Published : Wednesday, April 26, 2017 | 4:56 AM

Photo of a “couple” identified during the investigation. Source: provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A week after a Pasadena woman was sentenced to six months in federal prison for her role in running a fake marriage scam where foreign nationals paid tens of thousands of dollars to be “married” to United States citizens, her father was sentenced to two years in jail.

Jason Shiao, also known as Zheng Yi Xiao, 67, operated the Pasadena-based Jason (USA) International Law Corporation and pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and marriage fraud.

He was sentenced this week by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer.

Shiao and his daughter, Lynn Leung, “assisted foreign nationals who were seeking to obtain lawful permanent resident status to remain in the United States by arranging fraudulent marriages for those foreign nationals to United States citizen spouses,” according to documents filed by prosecutors in relation to Monday’s sentencing.

As part of the scheme, Shiao falsely claimed to be an attorney, paid a number of U.S. citizens thousands of dollars to participate in the scheme, introduced immigrants seeking benefits to American citizens to facilitate the sham marriages, instructed his clients to pose for wedding photographs, and told them to lie to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials.

The court documents showed Chinese nationals paid up to $50,000 to Shiao and Leung in the hopes of obtaining lawful permanent resident cards or “green cards.”

A third defendant, identified as Shannon Mendoza, 50, of Pacoima, has been transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where he is also being prosecuted for drug trafficking charges based on conduct allegedly committed while on pre-trial release in the immigration fraud case.

Prosecutors said while Shiao and Leung served as brokers by arranging the sham marriages and filing immigration applications, Mendoza allegedly acted as a recruiter by finding U.S. citizens who were willing to enter into sham marriages in exchange for payments of up to $15,000.

Authorities said the case is the result of a three-year undercover multi-agency investigation that began in September 2012 when an anonymous caller provided information about the scheme to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations tip line.

The Los Angeles Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, which includes HSI, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security unit, assisted in the investigation.

Since 2012, the investigators have uncovered over 70 fraudulent immigration applications associated with the defendants between the years 2006 and 2015.

In September 2015, ICE agents raided Shiao’s Pasadena business and confiscated computers, devices and documents they believed were related to the immigration fraud scheme.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said the case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheila Nagaraj of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Galatzan of the Asset Forfeiture Section also worked on the case.

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