SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence assisted in the investigation of a marriage fraud scheme that has lead to prison sentences for three people from Sacramento.
According to the United States Department of Justice, on May 8, 2015, Sippy Lal, 62, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to induce aliens to illegally enter the United States for private financial gain.
According to court documents, from at least October 24, 2006 until January 10, 2012, Lal and co-defendants Mamta Sharma, 37, and Rani Singh-Lal, 30, were involved in an elaborate immigration-fraud scheme involving foreign nationals from India who paid to enter into sham engagements or marriages with locally recruited U.S. citizens in an effort to legalize their immigration status. The U.S. citizens recruited by Lal were paid thousands of dollars to fly to India, meet and take pictures with a purported spouse, and sometimes enter into actual marriages (albeit often using aliases). Thereafter, fraudulent petitions were filed with the United States seeking visas allowing the Indian citizens to enter and reside within the United States. On at least one occasion, after an alien entered the country on a fraudulent fiancé visa procured through the scheme, Lal paid a U.S. citizen to further participate by entering into a sham marriage with the alien in Sacramento.
"This type of scheme puts everyone of us in this great nation at risk, it threatens our nation's security," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "Thankfully we have federal and state agents who can help to crack these cases."
Sharma used various aliases to pose as a U.S. citizen in five different petitions filed since 2008, despite the fact that she is not a U.S. citizen and despite the fact that she was married to Lal throughout that time period. Similarly, Singh-Lal posed as the petitioner in three different petitions, all filed with slight variations of her true name. According to court documents, more than 25 fraudulent petitions were submitted to immigration authorities as a result of the conspiracy, and at least nine Indian nationals entered the United States and were, at least for some period of time, able to avoid detection.
“At U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a team of three fraud officers looked into the allegations, and developed information to provide to Immigration and Customs Enforcement that helped to get an admission of guilt,” said District Director Mari Carmen Jordan.
“Marriage fraud is not a storyline for a Hollywood movie, it’s a federal crime, and unfortunately one that is all too common,” Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Northern California.
Sharma and Singh-Lal previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 24 months and 27 months in prison, respectively.
This case was the product of an investigation U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – Fraud Detection and National Security Unit, and the California Department of Justice – Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence. Assistant United States Attorneys Michele Beckwith and Philip Ferrari prosecuted the case.