The defendants include two people who were married at Hamburg Town Hall.
HAMBURG, N.Y. — Federal investigators say they have uncovered an international marriage fraud conspiracy with ties to Western New York.
Two people have already pleaded guilty. This case involves people from all over the United States and around the world. They are accused of getting married to people to get Green Cards, or the other way around, getting married or arranging marriages for people who wanted Green Cards and getting paid for it.
Seven people are accused of being involved in this marriage fraud conspiracy. Two already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.
Vishal Chhabria is an attorney from Illinois who helped fraudulently married couples through the Green Card process, knowing the couples were in sham marriages, and coaching them on how to try to fool federal officials at interviews.
Delaina Shaw is from Connecticut. According to prosecutors, she was the marriage broker, connecting foreign nationals from India who wanted Green Cards with U.S. citizens willing to get married for money. Prosecutors say Shaw was in one of these marriages herself with a man from India.
To crack the case, some investigators went undercover.
2 On Your Side talked with two attorneys who are not involved in this case.
“As an immigration attorney, it is incredibly disappointing and disheartening to see that a member of the immigration bar was engaging in this type of behavior, but these marriages for, solely for immigration purposes, I think those are more of the exception than the rule,” attorney Zabrina Reich said.
Added Barry Covert: “Straight out of a book or movie. The investigators had met up with the individuals that they were supposed to get married to, and it appears that they did actually, in some instances, get married to them. Obviously, they were fraudulent marriages, so the investigators are not now marital spouses to these criminals or alleged criminals, but it sounds as though it was a very involved undercover process.”
Two of the defendants, Dishant Patel and Shweta Patel, citizens of India living in Indianapolis, are accused of getting married to undercover law enforcement officers at Hamburg Town Hall.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Higgins shared one of the pieces of evidence from one of those ceremonies.
“During one of the undercover marriages where a law enforcement officer was marrying an individual we were investigating, they were at the Hamburg Town Clerk’s office and, you know, there’s a moment during any marriage ceremony where you’re supposed to say ‘I do’ and then kiss the bride. And these two, because they were not in a legitimate relationship, did not kiss. They did not hug, but they fist bumped to seal the deal on their marriage,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Higgins said.
Vishal Chhabria, who Covert says will likely be disbarred and never practice law again, now faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.