18 accused of arranging fake marriages for green cards, drug trafficking in Calif. gang probe

Authorities on Wednesday arrested 18 people accused of possessing firearms, drug trafficking and arranging fake marriages to obtain green cards for immigrants.

According to federal authorities, members of the Red Door gang, based in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, arranged for foreigners to pay tens of thousands of dollars to marry American women to gain permanent U.S. resident status.

Gangs frequently try to get money through white-collar crimes, but it was unusual to see a sham marriage scheme, U.S. attorney spokesmen Thom Mrozek said.

A federal indictment cited three such cases but Mrozek said prosecutors believe there could be hundreds of others.

"We have a widespread fraud against the immigration system," Mrozek said. "A scheme that brought hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of dollars, to the gang."

All but two of the 20 people named in the indictment were arrested Wednesday stemming from a probe into the gang. Prosecutors alleged the defendants are members of the gang or are otherwise connected to it.

They face counts of weapons possession, drug trafficking and marriage fraud conspiracy.

During the course of the two-year investigation, authorities seized seven firearms, more than 12,500 ecstasy pills and 2,200 marijuana plants. Aside from scam marriages, the indictment alleged some gang members distributed ecstasy and grew marijuana.