HOUSTON, Texas - Federal prosecutors in Texas have indicted nearly 100 people in a massive marriage fraud scheme. The scheme allegedly involved arranging marriages for immigration papers and had operations in Houston and Vietnam.
In heavily redacted government documents, close to 100 people are accused of participating in a long-running scheme for sham marriages.
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Investigators said a house in Houston was the epicenter, where Ashley Nguyen allegedly recruited American citizens to marry Vietnamese nationals in order for them to obtain legal residency. Her defense attorney, Marc Carter, disagrees: "The government in these detention hearings always tries to make, you know, these really salacious kind of statements and arguements, as well as making a point to let the judge know she is a naturalized citizen ... As though that carries less weight as somebody that has been born here."
Carter decried the government's heavy hand at not only arresting his client, but also Nguyen's daughter. Nguyen's common law husband was arrested as well. His brother spoke out briefly and said, "We're still waiting for the judge to decide in the case. They gonna let him out on bond or not. I don't know."
The indictment also ensnared a lawyer, Trang Le Nguyen, who allegedly helped file documents to make the marriages look legit. Other defendants are accused of everything from flying to Vietnam to marry their supposed spouses to making fake photo albums to show a relationship, all of which defense attorneys deny.
"The accusation, basically, is paying somebody to arrange a fraudulent marriage, that's the allegation," said attorney Tom Henderson.
It's still unclear what evidence federal investigators will be able to gather from house in Houston, but Nguyen's attorney said helping people is not a crime. "When we get to court, it's my intention to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end for my client."