Mother and daughter charged in alleged marriage scheme
U.S. citizens were recruited and paid between $5,000 and $6,000 to enter into sham marriages with Chinese aliens as part of a conspiracy to smuggle them into the United States, federal prosecutors said.
Lee Thi Tran and daughter Melinda Tran of Honolulu were charged in U.S. District Court yesterday for conspiring to bring an alien into the United States.
According to court documents, the women conspired with Andy Cuong Nguyen, also known as Phillip Lam, for Melinda Tran to travel with a group of recruits to China in November 2002. While in China, Tran married a Chinese national identified only by the initials L.Z., prosecutors said. She allegedly later agreed to sign documents containing false information and submitted them to immigration officials later that year.
Tran and recruits were paid $6,000 for marrying the Chinese and were promised an additional $14,000 when their Chinese spouses obtained entry into the United States, court documents said. Lee Tran allegedly received between $500 and $1,000 from Nguyen for each successful recruit and also was promised an additional $500 once the spouses arrived in the United States.
Lee Tran allegedly discussed the scheme with the U.S. citizens and the documentation required to travel to China. Nguyen allegedly provided the plane tickets for Melinda Tran and the recruits to travel to China.
Russ Barbee, attorney for Melinda Tran, declined comment on the charges but said his client was expected to appear in federal court later this week to change her not-guilty plea. Her mother is expected to also change her not-guilty plea this week, but in a separate proceeding. She and her attorney could not be reached for comment.
The women each face five years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine for conspiring to smuggle aliens into the United States.
Nguyen was charged in a June 15 indictment unsealed recently with conspiring with the Trans and three other U.S. men. He is being held without bail pending trial in February.
Charles Farfan and Peter Matthews, who allegedly married Chinese women in July and March 2003, respectively, and submitted false documents to immigration officials, are both free while awaiting trial. A fourth person, Curtis McLean Jr., has yet to make his first court appearance.