Former INS Employee, Six Others Indicted In Marriage Fraud Scheme
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Andrew Chojecki, a resident of Poland, on Dec. 6, 2012, charging him with nine counts of conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud, marriage fraud and alien harboring, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced. Chojecki, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is a former applications adjudicator with the U.S. Immigrations and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor agency to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Six additional defendants were charged with conspiring with Chojecki to commit and committing marriage fraud: Aaron Goldsmith, Beata Szkop, Pawel Karolak, Vito Scherma, Hector Vargas, and Malgorzata Zuk. Of these, Goldsmith, Karolak, Scherma, and Vargas were also charged with alien harboring.
According to the indictment, which was unsealed today, Chojecki, 61, is alleged to have facilitated fraudulent marriages in exchange for cash payments from at least April 2010 through November 2012. The indictment alleges that Chojecki introduced aliens and United States citizens to each other for the purpose of their entering into fraudulent marriages to evade U.S. immigration laws. The indictment further alleges that Chojecki provided the aliens with fraudulent immigration forms that he prepared for them, sample questions that he anticipated they might be asked by immigration officials and guidance on steps they should take to make it appear that their marriages were legitimate. The indictment alleges that in exchange for these services Chojecki required the aliens to pay an initial lump sum at the time of the wedding ceremony, which he split with the U.S. citizen spouse, and additional sums to the spouse at the time the alien received his or her green card and again when he or she received lawful permanent resident status.
Chojecki was arrested in Los Angeles on Nov. 23, 2012, when he arrived on a flight from Poland. On Nov. 29, 2012, Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams in Los Angeles ordered Chojecki released on a $170,000 unsecured bond, with the condition of electronic monitoring. The United States, however, has appealed that release order to the district court in San Francisco on the grounds that Chojecki is a flight risk. The appeal is now pending before United States District Court Judge William H. Alsup, to whom the case has been assigned. Chojecki’s next court appearance has not yet been scheduled. Defendants Szkop, Karolak, Vargas, and Zuk were arrested today and initially appeared before Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins in San Francisco. They are next scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2012, before Magistrate Judge Cousins for identification of counsel and bail setting. Defendants Goldsmith and Scherma have not yet been arrested.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count of conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and marriage fraud, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1325(c), is five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years supervised release and a $100 special assessment. The maximum statutory penalty for each count of alien harboring, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (a)(1)(B)(i), is 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years supervised release and a $100 special assessment. The government has also alleged criminal forfeiture arising out of the conspiracy and alien harboring counts. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Hartley M. K. West is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rania Ghawi. The prosecution is the result of a two-year investigation by the ICE/HSI.
Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual. All defendants named in the indictment must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.