Two Connecticut Residents Charged with Operating Extensive Immigration Marriage Fraud Scheme
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Boston, and Christopher W. Fonda, Supervisory Immigration Officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, today announced the unsealing of a 14-count indictment charging JODIAN STEPHENSON, also known as “Jodian Gordon,” 34, of Bridgeport, and DONOVAN LAWRENCE, 62, of Milford, with various federal offenses related to an extensive immigration marriage fraud scheme.
The indictment was returned on June 5 and STEPHENSON and LAWRENCE were arrested today. They appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport and were released on bonds in the amount of $350,000 and $100,000, respectively.
As alleged in the indictment, STEPHENSON has operated Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services, LLC, in Bridgeport, and LAWRENCE has operated Donovans Accounting Services, LLC, in Bridgeport. Between approximately July 2012 and July 2017, STEPHENSON, LAWRENCE and others conspired to arrange sham marriages between U.S. citizens and non-citizens residing in the U.S. for the purpose of the non-citizens’ applying for and obtaining “lawful permanent residence” status, also known as a “green card.” As part of the alleged scheme, STEPHENSON and LAWRENCE made and filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service false documents, including fraudulent green card applications and false tax returns in the names of the allegedly “married” couples.
The indictment identifies nine false marriages that resulted in the filing of fraudulent green card applications. During the investigation, is it alleged that STEPHENSON offered to arrange a sham marriage for a federal law enforcement agent working in an undercover capacity, and help obtain a green card for the undercover agent, in exchange for a proposed fee of $20,000. STEPHENSON then introduced the undercover agent to a U.S. citizen, advised them about the ways they could create the appearance that they were validly married and living together as husband and wife, and helped the undercover agent obtain a marriage license in exchange for a cash payment of $5,000 from the undercover agent.
The indictment charges STEPHENSON and LAWRENCE with one count of conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud and make false statements, and six counts of making false statements. These charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on each count. The indictment also charges STEPHENSON with seven counts of immigration documents fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count.
U.S. Attorney Durham stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, Office of Fraud Detection and National Security. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry K. Kopel.