News and Press Releases

One of Final Defendants in Massive Visa Fraud Ring

January 13, 2009

RYAN NICKLAUS WILLIAMS, 28, of Puyallup, Washington was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 37 days in jail with credit for time served, 100 hours of community service, four months of electronic home monitoring, and three years of supervised release for the crime of Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud. In sentencing WILLIAMS, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton noted that the visa fraud conspiracy was a “very serious offense” that had a profound effect on legitimate visa seekers.

WILLIAMS is one of thirty-six people identified by law enforcement as having accepted trips and cash to travel to Vietnam to pose as a fiancés as part of a Visa fraud conspiracy. The investigation of the conspiracy, dubbed “Operation Pit Boss” because many of the conspirators were recruited at Vancouver, Washington casinos, resulted in indictments against six main targets in early 2005. In all thirty-four people were charged with federal felonies and two with federal misdemeanors in connection with the case. WILLIAMS, and the last defendant, Duaine Belgarde, are being sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton this week.

WILLIAMS traveled with other recruits to Vietnam in October 2002, posed for photos and participated in an “engagement party” with a woman identified in court papers as Kim N. The photos and party were a ruse to make it appear the two had a legitimate personal relationship. In November 2002, WILLIAMS submitted signed immigration paperwork, which he knew was false, indicating that he planned to marry and financially support Kim N. The woman entered the United States on a K-1 fiancé visa and remains in the U.S. today despite the fraud. Williams never married or supported her.

Kim N.’s case is not an isolated incident. In western Washington alone, as a result of this scheme, 50 to 60 Vietnamese Nationals illegally entered the United States. According to agents with Homeland Security and the Diplomatic Security Service, it is more difficult to deport those Vietnamese aliens who have already entered the United States illegally, than it is to deport aliens from countries with whom we have shared full diplomatic relations for many years. The scheme further harmed legitimately engaged couples, because at one point the U.S. Consulate in Vietnam ceased issuing visas in order to ensure the fraud had been uncovered. These couples were kept apart for lengthy delays.

The ringleaders of the visa fraud scheme, Loc Huu Nguyen and Phuoc Nguyen, both of Vancouver, Washington, were each sentenced on June 30, 2006, to three years in prison and three years of supervised release.

While most of the conspirators who entered into the sham marriages were sentenced to sentences of probation, WILLIAMS was sentenced to prison time due to his criminal history. He has two DUI convictions (2002, 2003), a negligent driving conviction (2001), and an assault conviction (2003).

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the States Department’s Diplomatic Security Service 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 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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