Essex County Woman Admits Role in Scheme to Harbor Non-U.S. Citizens Through Marriage Fraud
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey
NEWARK, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, woman admitted conspiring to commit marriage fraud, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Regina Johnson, 59, of Newark, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court on Aug. 8, 2023, to one count of a superseding indictment charging her and others with conspiracy to harbor non-U.S. citizens by orchestrating fraudulent marriages between the non-citizens and U.S. citizens.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From September 2016 through July 2019, Regina Johnson and her sister, Andrea Torres, arranged and facilitated sham marriages for non-U.S. citizens who wished to remain in the United States despite the lack of legal status or proper documentation. Torres and Johnson recruited U.S. citizen potential spouses and paid them a fee in exchange for those U.S. citizens entering into sham marriages with Torres’ and Johnson’s non-citizen clients.
Torres’ son, Philip Torres, also charged in the superseding indictment, participated in the scheme by officiating some of the sham marriages. Andrea Torres and Johnson arranged for the “couples” to obtain fraudulent marriage licenses and even arranged and charged their clients for wedding ceremonies and after parties that were staged to make the sham marriages appear legitimate. Andrea Torres and Johnson further advised their clients to open joint bank accounts and to meet frequently with their U.S. spouses. Clients were also advised to take photographs in a variety of locations and in different clothing to memorialize the relationship and to give the appearance of cohabitation, even though none of the clients ever resided or intended to reside with their U.S. spouses. Andrea Torres and Johnson then helped their clients complete immigration forms to obtain permanent residency on the basis of the materially false misrepresentations.
The charge of conspiracy to which Johnson pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2023.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea. He also thanked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for its assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sammi Malek of the National Security Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake A. Coppotelli of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the superseding indictment against Andrea Torres and Philip Torres are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Updated August 9, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-225