HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) —A woman who masterminded of one of the largest marriage fraud conspiracies in U.S. history was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines on Thursday.
A court decided on Oct. 27, 2022 that Ashley Yen Nguyen, 58, will spend the next 10 years in federal prison, serve three additional years of supervised release, and pay $334,605 in fines. Her sentence comes after she pleaded guilty on Nov. 5, 2020 to conspiracy to engage in marriage fraud, mail fraud, immigration fraud, money laundering, and making false statements in a tax return.
Federal authorities said Nguyen herself entered the United States through a sham marriage.
According to court records, Nguyen ran her scheme out of the Southwest Houston area but had associates throughout Texas and Vietnam. Some American citizens acted as recruiters and were routinely paid about $200 for the role in the scheme. They often advertised their services over social media in Vietnam.
Nguyen claimed to be a lawyer with contacts inside U.S. Customs and Immigration to make her scheme seem more legitimate. The organization she masterminded organized over 500 sham marriages in exchange for significant amounts of money, generating over $15 million in illicit proceeds from the scheme.
Nguyen would charge Vietnamese nationals anywhere between $50,000 to $70,000 to marry an American husband or wife in order to fraudulently obtain permanent resident status.
U.S. citizens who agreed to participate as spouses were promised $15,000 to $20,000 paid out in installments but were rarely given the full amount.
As part of her plea agreement, Nguyen acknowledged that the fake couples did not and did not intend to live together, despite what documents and statements submitted to federal authorities said. The spouses met only briefly or even did not meet at all before getting their marriage license.
Nguyen and her associates also helped coach the spouses to pass immigration interviews, giving them fabricated “facts” to memorize and false details to recite in order to establish the pair lived together and knew each other’s daily habits. The organization even produced fake wedding albums in order to help people gain legal permanent resident status.
Plea documents state that Nguyen used the illegal proceeds from the scheme to purchase multiple residences that were used as part of the scheme to launder proceeds and were even sometimes staged to appear as if they belonged to the fake spouses in order to pass site inspections.
Nguyen will remain in custody until she is transferred to a federal prison in the near future.