TACOMA, Wash. – Four siblings accused of recruiting at least 130 people to pose as spouses for Vietnamese nationals pleaded guilty to what federal prosecutors described as one of the largest immigration marriage scams in the Pacific Northwest.
Foreign clients were paying $10,000 to $30,000 each to obtain visas through the phony marriages, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
The siblings — two brothers and two sisters — along with a boyfriend of one of the women, offered their recruits $500 to $1,500 to fly to Vietnam, where their expenses were paid for a few weeks, officials said. There, the recruits would pose for pictures with the clients and write love letters that were shown to immigration officials.
"One recruit said it was like being a rock star for a couple of weeks," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Thomas. Authorities said many of them held low-paying jobs in card rooms and casinos in Washington state or lived in Oregon.
Phuoc Huu Nguyen, also known as Steve Nugent, 42, and Loc Huu Nguyen, 38, both of Vancouver, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit visa fraud, punishable by up to five years in prison, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, which can mean 20-year sentences.
Their sisters, Monica Nguyen, 30 and Amanda Nguyen, 28, both of Lynnwood, pleaded guilty last month to the same charges. Everett Ledbetter, 34, of Lynnwood, Wash., the younger sister's boyfriend, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit visa fraud.