Imposter attorney sentenced in fake marriage scheme for immigrants

A California man who arranged fraudulent marriages between foreign nationals and United States citizens was sentenced Monday to two years in federal prison.

Jason Shiao, also known as “Zheng Yi Xiao,” 67, of Santa Fe Springs, posed as an attorney operating the Pasadena-based Jason (USA) International Law Corporation.

Shiao perpetrated an immigration fraud scheme in which at least 87 foreign nationals–mostly Chinese citizens–paid up to $50 thousand to enter into fake marriages to United States citizens in hopes of obtaining green cards.

According to documents filed by prosecutors, Shiao “assisted foreign nationals who were seeking to obtain lawful permanent resident status to remain in this country by arranging fraudulent marriages for those foreign nationals to United States citizen spouses.”

Initial charges against Shiao were filed in 2015. He pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and marriage fraud.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported, “As part of the scheme, Shiao falsely claimed to be an attorney, paid 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 clients to lie to officials with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Shiao’s daughter, Lynn Leung, 45, of Pasadena, who was instrumental in the scheme, pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and was sentenced last week to six months in prison.

The case also involved a third defendant charged–Shannon Mendoza, 50, of Pacoima–who is also being prosecuted for drug trafficking that allegedly occurred while Mendoza was on pre-trial release in the immigration fraud case.

ICE reports revealed that “[w]hile 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.”

In order to make the fraudulent marriages appear valid, Shiao and Leung prepared documentation that was filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, including staged photographs of wedding ceremonies and fake tax returns, life insurance policies, joint bank account information and applications for apartment leases.

“This sentence should serve as a warning about the serious consequences awaiting those who exploit America’s legal immigration system for personal profit,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. “Schemes like this not only undermine the integrity of our immigration system, they pose a security vulnerability and potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve.”

H/T: ICE.gov

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