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Three Cambodians in custody in US accused of visa, marriage fraud

Three Cambodians in custody in US accused of visa, marriage fraud

THREE US citizens and three Cambodian nationals have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to commit marriage and visa fraud in connection with a scheme designed to enable Cambodians to obtain American citizenship, a US attorney’s office announced Friday.

Michael Reece, 57, Julianne Garcia, 27, and her mother, 64-year-old Helen Garcia, all Americans, were arrested late last week, as were Cambodians Samphear Thou, 35, Lorn Sou, 46, and an unidentified woman referred to as Jane Doe in a statement released by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

“The United States ... continues to welcome legal immigration,” US Attorney José Angel Moreno said in the statement.

“It is illegal immigration, whether by illegal entry, overstay, or fraud, which cannot and will not be tolerated. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who circumvent, or attempt to circumvent, the legal immigration process,” Moreno said.

A nine-count indictment alleges that conspirators paid US citizens substantial “marriage fees” to enter into fraudulent marriages with Cambodian nationals. Julianne Garcia is alleged to have entered into a sham marriage with Samphear Thou in August 2006, and Reece is alleged to have entered into a similar marriage with Doe in December 2006.

Helen Garcia and Lorn Sou are accused of aiding, abetting and assisting Julianne Garcia and Samphear Thou in entering into a fraudulent marriage. Lorn Sou is also accused of aiding and abetting the Reece-Doe marriage.

Both Reece and Doe are accused of falsely claiming on a passport application for a minor that Reece was the child’s father. Doe is also charged with visa fraud for using and possessing a US non-immigrant visa allegedly procured by means of a false statement.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Sunday that the Cambodian government condemned the scheme.

“As a result of any such illegal activities, [the Cambodian nationals] must face the law in the US and deal with the consequences of their actions,” he said.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a US$250,00 fine. Passport fraud and visa fraud each carry a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

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