News and Press Releases

Admits Arranging Sham Marriages to Obtain Citizenship for Workers and Relatives

October 23, 2009

VAREE BRADFORD, 44, of Sammamish, Washington, pleaded guilty this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Conspiracy to Commit Immigration Fraud, and three counts of Fraud Relating to Immigration Documents. BRADFORD is an owner of the “Thai Ginger” chain of restaurants in the Greater Seattle area. When sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on January 22, 2010, BRADFORD faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy count, and ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the fraudulent immigration documents counts.

According to the plea agreement, BRADFORD admits that she recruited U.S. citizens to engage in sham marriages with Thai nationals, so that the citizens of Thailand could obtain legal status to stay in the U.S. The U.S. citizens were paid $20,000 for entering into the sham marriages. In 2002, BRADFORD had a Thai Ginger employee enter into a sham marriage with one of her relatives so that the relative had legal status in the U.S. In 2005, BRADFORD had a Thai Ginger employee enter into a sham marriage with another Thai Ginger employee. BRADFORD paid the U.S. citizen $20,000 for the fraudulent marriage, telling the citizen the marriage only had to last two years. During that same year, BRADFORD set up a second sham marriage for one of her relatives with a U.S. citizen, again paying the citizen $20,000. In 2006, BRADFORD set up another sham marriage, this one for her nephew, a Thai citizen.

In late 2007, BRADFORD told a U.S. citizen who was in fact an undercover ICE agent, that she would pay him $20,000 for entering into a sham marriage. The “wife” in the sham marriage was changed mid-way through the scheme, when the original citizen had to return to Thailand. Nevertheless, BRADFORD introduced the undercover officer to a second Thai national who he was supposed to marry, and counseled him about how to prepare for the immigration interview. BRADFORD agreed to pay $20,000 to the undercover agent for participating in the sham marriage for two years.

“Marriage fraud undermines the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system and potentially robs deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve,” said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Seattle. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that those who engage in these schemes can face criminal charges for their actions.”

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake 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 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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