U.S.: Federal authorities break up ring that paired debtors with Asians seeking citizenship

Federal authorities have broken up a ring that offered to erase gambling debts for debtors who promised to marry Asians seeking U.S. citizenship.

Authorities this week arrested 11 of the 44 men and women suspected of operating or participating in the scam, which reportedly charged Chinese and Vietnamese nationals as much as $60,000 (Ђ51,300) to marry American citizens to obtain green cards.

One of the alleged ring leaders, Marian Therese Thai, 53, turned herself in to authorities Friday. She faces numerous federal charges, including conspiracy, harboring aliens and marriage fraud.

The scam's organizers often visited southern California casinos where they found people down on their luck. "They were able to find people who were on a losing streak who would be willing to do something illegal for the right price," said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Thai ran the business out of her now-defunct MT Travel agency in Westminster where she produced fake wedding pictures, joint tax returns and love letters, officials said.

Authorities discovered the scam after immigration agency employees discovered U.S. citizens who were petitioning for more than one spouse to receive green cards. They believe some of the U.S. citizens were paid as much as $5,000 (Ђ4,275) to marry foreign nationals, reported AP. P.T.

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