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California woman jailed over fake Chinese weddings

A California woman was sentenced to six months in prison on Monday for running a fake marriage scam with her father to enable Chinese nationals to obtain immigration visas.

Federal officials said Lynn Leung, 44, and her 67-year-old father, Jason Shiao, over nearly a decade organised more than 70 phony marriages for Chinese nationals who paid up to $50 000 for their services in order to obtain a permanent resident visa, or “green card”.

Shiao, who posed as an immigration attorney, and his daughter – both of whom have pleaded guilty in the case – paired customers with US nationals who were in need of money and in some cases even homeless, federal investigators said.

The pair went to great length to deceive authorities, staging wedding photo shoots and organising fake honeymoons, authorities said. They also coached couples on how to avoid detection by immigration authorities.

The US citizen recruited for the scheme would be promised up to $10 000, but many told investigators that they never received payment.

Investigators said Leung and her father netted up to $3.5m from the scheme that allowed them to enjoy a lavish lifestyle.

In addition to her prison term, Leung on Monday was ordered to pay a $4 000 fine and will be on supervised release for three years.

Shiao is set to be sentenced in the case on April 24.

Earlier this month, federal agents raided a Los Angeles-area business suspected of being connected to a $50m visa fraud scheme involving more than 100 Chinese investors.

The investors obtained green cards through the so-called EB-5 visa programme.

The programme offers foreign nationals permanent US residency in exchange for investments of at least $500 000 in a US business that must also create 10 American jobs.

In this case, however, the investors proposed projects that were never built and some of their money was refunded to them by the key suspects – Victoria Chan, a California attorney, and her father, Tat Chan.

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