LEADERS OF VISA FRAUD SCHEME SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS IN PRISON
Brothers Recruited Americans to Travel to Vietnam and Pose as Fiancees to Illegally Obtain Visas
LOC HUU NGUYEN, 40, and PHUOC NGUYEN, 43, both of Vancouver, Washington, were each sentenced to three years in prison and three years of supervised release today in Tacoma for Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton told them he hoped these prison sentences would deter others from similar conduct. The judge noted the scheme harmed a lot of people.
According to records in the case, the conspirators recruited United States citizens to travel to Vietnam to enter into fictitious engagements to marry Vietnamese nationals to facilitate their unlawful entry into the United States. The recruits were offered as much as $10,000 in addition to the free trip to Vietnam. Vietnamese nationals were charged between $20,000 and $30,000 for a Non-Immigrant Visa authorizing their entry into the U.S. The conspirators helped the recruits manufacture letters of affection and staged photos of the recruits with the Vietnamese nationals to perpetuate the fraud. Some recruits who refused to participate after traveling to Vietnam were threatened or intimidated by members of the conspiracy.
The investigation revealed that LOC HUU NGUYEN first hatched the conspiracy in 2000, when his pool hall in Vancouver, Washington, was failing. A friend agreed to pay LOC NGUYEN $15,000 if he would marry his niece in Vietnam so she could come to the U.S. Over the next four years LOC NGUYEN, PHUOC NGUYEN, and their sisters, Amanda and Monica Nguyen, recruited more than 130 young Americans to pose as fiancees to commit visa fraud. The investigation in this case was dubbed “Operation Pit Boss” because many of the phoney fiancees were recruited at area casinos where conspirator Everett Ledbetter worked as a Pit Boss.
In asking for a significant prison term for the ringleaders, Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Thomas and Douglas Whalley wrote to the court about the damage the scheme had done. “The case agents estimate that 50 to 60 Vietnamese nationals entered the United States as a result of this scheme. Of those, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has only been able to deport one so far,” because of the developing nature of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam. In addition, because of this case, approval of all fiancee visas from Vietnam were suspended for a time as the fraud was uncovered. The delay harmed those couples who were in love and would qualify for the fiancee visa. As a consequence, the embassy in Vietnam has a three year backlog of visa applications.
In addition to the NGUYEN brothers, other conspirators have already been sentenced. Monica Nguyen was sentenced to ten months in prison, three years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine. Everett Ledbetter was sentenced to six months in prison, six months of electronic home monitoring, a $2,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Amanda Nguyen was sentenced to eight months in prison, a $2,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Richard Earl Anderson was sentenced to four months in prison, a $3,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
One person who posed as a fiancee has already been sentenced, and others are being prosecuted. Ryan Daniels, 28, of Puyallup, Washington, was sentenced to four months of electronic home monitoring and two years of probation.
In his remarks to the court, Assistant United States Attorney Doug Whalley noted one aspect of the case he found most disturbing: that 130 young Americans had been recruited to lie and defraud their government, and they never reported it. Ultimately it was the parents of one of the recruits who contacted law enforcement.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the States Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the Washington State Gambling Commission. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Thomas and Douglas B. Whalley.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.