News and Press Releases

Recruited and Paid U.S. Citizens to Enter into Fake Marriages with Cambodian Nationals

August 31, 2009

VUTHY SIM, 35, of Federal Way, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 33 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud, three counts of Visa Fraud, Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering, three counts of Money Laundering, and Concealing an Illegal Alien. SIM was convicted January 23, 2009, following a twelve-day jury trial. The jury deliberated for one day before finding SIM guilty. At sentencing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart called the scheme “troublesome and serious,” saying “The victims in this kind of visa fraud ... are our community... our society, and the people who could not come here, whose spots were being taken by those engaging in the fraud.”

According to testimony at trial and court documents, beginning in approximately June 2002, SIM recruited U.S. citizens to participate in sham marriages with Cambodian nationals. The purpose of the fake marriages was for the Cambodian national to receive a visa to come to the United States and a “green card” to stay here. In furtherance of the scheme, and as directed by SIM, the U.S. citizen would travel to Cambodia and pose in staged engagement or wedding photos with a Cambodian national. SIM typically would prepare the immigration paperwork and have the U.S. citizen sign it, and then would submit the immigration paperwork to Citizenship and Immigration Services. After the Cambodian national arrived in the United States, the Cambodian national and the U.S. citizen would have a civil wedding ceremony, with SIM and members of her family typically acting as the witnesses at the wedding. SIM would pay the U.S. citizen $20,000 in exchange for the citizen’s participation in the scheme, with the money being paid over time, and the final payment not made until the Cambodian citizen was in the U.S. and had a green card. SIM would pay the U.S. citizen with money that SIM received from the Cambodian national. The evidence at trial showed that SIM profited in excess of $160,000.

The evidence at trial proved that SIM and coconspirators wired money from Cambodia to SIM’s U.S. bank accounts. SIM then used that money to pay U.S. coconspirators for their participation in the fake marriages.

SIM also illegally concealed an illegal alien. The evidence showed that SIM sponsored her “mother” to come to the U.S., but the person who used the visa issued to SIM’s mother was, in fact, SIM’s sister. According to a witness at trial, SIM’s sister has fled to Cambodia, rather than risk being arrested by immigration authorities.

In asking for a significant sentence, federal prosecutors wrote to the court that this type of fraud harms other immigrants. “Vuthy Sim showed a complete disregard for the immigration laws of the United States. By facilitating sham marriages, Vuthy Sim caused participants in her scheme to gain unfair advantages over those aliens who were lawfully and truthfully seeking U.S. visas,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karyn Johnson and Ye-Ting Woo.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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