Woman Pleads Guilty in Visa Fraud and Immigrant Smuggling Scheme
A Las Vegas woman pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of New York to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to unlawfully bring Chinese nationals into the United States for financial gain.
According to court documents, Haiyan Liao, 46, a naturalized U.S. citizen and native of China, engaged in a scheme with others to assist noncitizens from China in entering the United States by fraudulently obtaining visitor visas. Liao and her co-conspirators submitted applications containing false statements to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China. For the noncitizens whose applications were approved, Liao facilitated their travel to the United States and accompanied them on commercial flights to Queens and Brooklyn, New York. Four of the noncitizens were unaccompanied minors. The noncitizens and their families paid thousands of dollars to Liao and others to get to the United States. As a result of this scheme, Liao reaped at least $98,673.72 in illicit proceeds through wire transmissions from China to the United States.
“The Criminal Division is committed to prosecuting human smugglers who undermine the rule of law by trying to circumvent our lawful immigration system,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As Liao’s conviction demonstrates, we will continue to hold accountable people who take advantage of vulnerable populations for personal greed.”
“Liao was paid thousands of dollars to help lie to the federal government to bring individuals, including unaccompanied minors, into the United States for her own selfish gain,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “This office stands committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting the integrity of our immigration process.”
“The Diplomatic Security Service’s global presence provides it with the expertise necessary to dismantle transnational human smuggling networks,” said Deputy Assistant Director of Investigations Robert Kelty of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates DSS’ commitment to protecting vulnerable populations, stemming the tide of human smuggling and targeting those who abuse our nation’s visa system.”
Liao pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully bring aliens into the United States for financial gain, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 8. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The DSS Criminal Fraud Investigations Branch investigated the case.
Acting Deputy Chief Rami Badawy of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nomi Berenson for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case.