(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – An American woman pleaded guilty on Friday to entering into a sham marriage with a Jamaican man as part of an immigration fraud scheme that was run by a Jamaican woman in the United States.
According to a release from the US Attorney’s Office for District of Connecticut, Audrey Bonet Johnson, 34, of Brooklyn, New York, entered the plea in New Haven Federal Court to the charge of conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud.
Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Judge Michael P Shea in Hartford on January 4, 2022.
She faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, the US Attorney’s Office said.
Johnson is the latest person to plead guilty in the fraudulent marriage scheme in the United States that was run by Jamaican citizen, Jodian Stephenson, also known as “Jodian Gordon”, 37, of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
In relation to Johnson’s case, court documents and statements indicated that on March 1, 2012, she and “Shanon St Aubyn Stephenson, a citizen of Jamaica, entered into a fraudulent marriage.”
Shortly thereafter, they “applied to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for Stephenson to become a lawful permanent resident of the US”, often called a “green card”, the US Attorney’s Office stated.
After an interview with the USCIS in 2012, “Stephenson was issued a temporary, two-year green card”.
In further submissions and statements to the agency, Johnson and Stephenson claimed to be married and living together in Brooklyn, New York.
“In fact, Stephenson married Jodian Stephenson, also known as Jodian Gordon, in 2010, and lived with her, and not Johnson, in Bridgeport, Connecticut,” the US Attorney’s Office disclosed in their statement.
A wider probe by US authorities revealed that Jodian Stephenson operated Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services, LLC, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, according to court documents and statements.
The US Attorney’s Office alleged that between 2011 and 2017, “Stephenson conspired with others to arrange 28 sham marriages between US citizens and non-citizens residing in the US for the purpose of the non-citizens’ applying for and obtaining ‘lawful permanent residence’ (LPR) status, also known as a ‘green card.'”
One of those sham marriages, according to the release, was between “Johnson and Shanon Stephenson”, and “another between Jodian Stephenson and a US citizen”.
“Jodian… typically found and introduced a US citizen to be the non-citizen’s purported spouse and helped the couple obtain a marriage license,” stated the US Attorney’s Office.
Further, the Jamaican-American organised the marriage ceremonies and celebrations, as well as coached the couples on “how to make their marriage appear to be genuine” despite them neither living together nor “otherwise intending to remain actually married”.
She also prepared and helped submit several immigration documents needed as part of the non-citizen’s green card application.
As part of the modus operandi of the scam, the Jamaican native would “typically” charge between US$17,000 and US$20,000 to complete this process for a non-citizen, while “the citizen spouse” received between US$2,000 and US$4,000 for his or her participation, the US Attorney’s Office shared.
Jodian was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud. She was subsequently sentenced to six months in prison on August 26.
Her husband, Shanon Stephenson, is awaiting sentencing.
In the meantime, 10 persons were charged with related offences relative to investigations into Jodian Stephenson’s fraudulent marriage scheme.
Further, “removal proceedings have been, or are being commenced against all individuals whose green card applications were found to have been based on sham marriages”, the US Attorney’s Office indicated.
The investigations were conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security.