News and Press Releases

Defendant Advised Immigrants to Lie about Sexual Orientation

October 23, 2009

STEVEN MAHONEY, 41, of Kent, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Commit Immigration Fraud. MAHONEY operated Mahoney and Associates, an immigration consulting business, in Kent, Washington. MAHONEY’s estranged wife, HELEN MAHONEY, was sentenced to six months in prison and two years of supervised release for her role in the conspiracy. At sentencing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said, “I want to get the message out to the community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

STEVEN MAHONEY pleaded guilty on April 28, 2009. According to records filed in the case, from October 1998 through June 2007, MAHONEY counseled, advised, and prepared immigration applications for immigrants seeking legal status in the United States. Over that time period MAHONEY admits that he filed up to 99 false immigration documents seeking legal status based on asylum claims. The false applications stated that the applicants were seeking asylum in the United States based on claims that, if they were returned to their home countries, they would be targeted and abused because they were homosexual, or tortured due to their religious practices or political views. HELEN MAHONEY assisted with completing and submitting the false applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). MAHONEY and HELEN MAHONEY knew that these statements were not true for certain applicants. The MAHONEYs coached the applicants on how to pursue immigration status based on these false claims. MAHONEY was paid between $1,000 and $4,000 for each falsified application.

In asking for prison time for both defendants, prosecutors told the court “immigration fraud, of the nature and volume that (the Mahoneys) perpetuated, harms the chances of those who wish to arrive and live in this country legally. The threat of persecution in Eastern Europe based on sexual orientation and religion is real. By advising immigrants to falsely claim that they were gay or Jewish, (the Mahoneys) diminished the chances of those who genuinely seek asylum for those reasons.”

“Our nation’s immigration laws are intended to provide benefits to individuals who meet certain criteria – not opportunists who manipulate the system for personal financial gain,” said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Seattle. “ICE will continue to investigate those involved in these types of criminal schemes.”

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and USCIS. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ye-Ting Woo and Jill Otake.

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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