U.S. Department of Justice
James T. Jacks
Acting United States Attorney
Northern District of Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA INQUIRIES: KATHY COLVIN
WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2009
FAX: (214) 767-2898
SEVENTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD FORT WORTH WOMAN ADMITS
ROLE AS LEADER OF VISA FRAUD SCHEME
Defendant Arranged Marriages Between Foreign Nationals and U.S. Citizens for a Fee
DALLAS — Maria Refugia Camarillo, 71, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis, to conspiring to commit fraud in connection with immigration documents, announced Acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Camarillo, of Fort Worth, Texas, has been on a personal recognizance bond since her arrest in May 2008 on charges outlined in a 29-count indictment that charged her, and 15 additional defendants, in the large-scale document fraud conspiracy. She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Solis on September 23, 2009, and faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. In addition, she is required to execute and provide a $35,000 lien on her home.
According to documents filed in court, beginning in the 1980's and continuing until May 2008, Camarillo, and a number of individuals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, ran a fraudulent scheme in which foreign nationals, who wanted to apply for lawful residency into the U.S., would pay Camarillo to arrange a marriage between them and a U.S. citizen. Once married, they could apply for U.S. permanent residence and later, U.S. citizenship.
Camarillo recruited many of her family members, including her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews into the conspiracy; 15 family members were indicted with Camarillo. The indictment was dismissed against one defendant, but the remainder have pleaded guilty to their role in the conspiracy and most are awaiting sentencing. Camarillo paid the co-conspirators a portion of the money that she received either directly, or by paying bills or other obligations on their behalf. Camarillo admitted that three of her grandchildren were minors when they entered into the conspiracy and that they were under age 18 when they entered into their first marriages related to the conspiracy.
Foreign nationals would pay as much as $12,000 for these arranged marriages. There was an organized deception by the defendants to make the fraudulent marriages appear legitimate. Camarillo even coached the couples on how to make the marriage appear legitimate, includingadvising them to take photographs together and open joint bank accounts. She even provided the couple a list of possible questions they might be asked at the immigration interview and advised them to practice answering the questions.
Couples filed their applications for permanent residence with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) using fraudulently obtained, legitimate documents which showed their marriages were valid. To further evade detection, Camarillo provided some defendants who were citizen spouses, fraudulent identities, including false names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. Camarillo admitted that approximately 13 fraudulent identities were used during the course of the conspiracy by various members of the conspiracy.
Camarillo admitted that after the foreign national had made initial contact with a member of the conspiracy, she would usually meet with the foreign national in her office behind her house in Fort Worth. During the meeting, or soon after, the foreign national would pay half of the arranged fee to Camarillo. Then, Camarillo would select one of the coconspirators, who was a citizen of the appropriate age and gender, to marry and petition for the alien. The selected spouse usually met the foreign national for the first time when they applied for a marriage license and again for the actual wedding ceremony, which was normally officiated by a Justice of the Peace.
The case is being investigated by CIS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Social Security Administration’ Office of Inspector General, Health and Human Services Commission’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Brown and Amy Mitchell are prosecuting.