21 people arrested for Vietnamese “marriage smuggling” operation in Utah

August 9, 2006

LAST UPDATE: 8/8/2006 7:50:21 PM

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They claim to be matchmakers. But prosecutors say they’re nothing but smugglers. 21 defendants were arrested overnight in what federal authorities are calling the largest marriage smuggling scam they’ve come across.

“Money is at the heart of it,” said U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman. “What isn’t is love and a genuine commitment to marry.”

Authorities say four of the 21 indicted are the masterminds behind the alleged scam. According to federal authorities, the group received $30,000 per marriage proposal.

Prosecutors say they paid $2,000 to so-called recruiters who were U.S. citizens. The recruiters would fly to Vietnam for a pre-arranged marriage and bring the spouse back for citizenship.

“One of the tactics they utilize when be to go to Vietnam and change their clothes all in one day, said Thomas Depenbrock of the U.S. State Department. Several changes of outfits taking pictures at different locations to indicate that its been a long relationship.”

The alleged marriage ring is accused of bringing in close to one-hundred Vietnamese spouses over five years.

Authorities say marrying an American makes it easier and speeds up citizenship.

“It’s a slap in the face for every intended immigrant who patiently wait their turn to enter into the country and be part of the American dream, said Charles DeMore of the Immigration department.

Prosecutors also say the so-called recruiters are still under investigation and could be charged at a later date. Immigration officials plan to review the cases of the Vietnamese who were married and could be deported.

Story by: Marcos Ortiz
marcos@abc4.com

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