US busts alleged Vietnamese fake-marriage immigration scam
August 24, 2006
|A US grand jury indictment unsealed Monday charges 24 people in connection with a sophisticated marriage fraud scheme designed to help Vietnamese nationals enter or stay in the US illegally.|
Twenty-one people, most of whom US citizens of Vietnamese origin ranging in age from 29 to 56, were arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County jail without bail on Monday.
Those arrested are charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, alien smuggling, marriage fraud, aggravated identity theft and visa fraud, according to the indictment. They each face up to 32 years in jail.
Details on the 18-month investigation called Operation Morning Glory were released Tuesday during a news conference at the US Attorney’s Office.
US investigators believe some of those charged recruited 80 to 100 Utahns to marry Vietnamese to help them get proper US documentation. Men and women were equally involved in the fake marriages, investigators said.
In order to get through the US immigration system, the couples were often coached well by those charged about what to say and what questions federal officials might ask.
The people who were matched into couples would visit each other in the US or Vietnam. During those visits, the couple would be photographed many times together in different changes of clothes to make it look like they were a longtime couple, investigators said.
Recruiters told Utahns the marriages were not “illegal” and they would be helping Vietnamese “escape a terrible situation,” the news release said.
Investigators said the US federal government is looking into how the couples were able to get through the immigration system and plan to “refine” policies and procedures.
Investigators allege there were five ring leaders – Hoa Thanh Vo, 39; Henry Ngoc Nguyen, 45; Buu Ven Truong, 37; Ngoc Hoa “Noa, Nora, Norwa” Huynh, 33, and Danh Huy Do, 33. They said they were still deciding if those who were involved in the marriages would be charged.
On Tuesday, some businesses owned by those arrested were closed. Vo is involved in several businesses, including Vietlink Travel and Service and Nails Divine in a new strip mall on 3600 South near Redwood Road, according to state documents.
Hang Hoang, 40, Vo’s wife, works at Nails Divine, which has stayed open. Vietlink Travel, however, is shut down because federal agents took much of the business’s computers and documents.
Hoang, who moved from Vietnam to Utah 15 years ago, said the two married 13 years ago and have three children ages 12, nine and four. She said Vo was arrested at their West Valley City home on Monday and spoke to him by phone Tuesday.
Source: Tien Phong, Salt Lake Tribune