wedding rings Photo: Shutterstock

A Houston-area immigration attorney was snagged in a massive marriage fraud case involving nearly 100 defendants who are facing a total of 206 charges, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas announced Monday.

Trang Le Nguyen, managing partner in Pham & Nguyen Law Group in Houston, is facing charges of obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice, and tampering with a witness, which both could bring maximum sentences of 10 years in prison. She also faces charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which could bring possible 20-year sentences.

Nguyen didn’t immediately return a call or email seeking comment.

The May 10 superseding indictment in the case alleged that another defendant, Ashley Yen Nguyen, who is known as “Duyen,” leads a Southwest Houston criminal organization that operates a “large scale marriage fraud scheme” in Texas and Vietnam.

“It creates sham marriages in order to illegally obtain admission and immigrant status for aliens in the United States,” the indictment claimed. “A ‘sham’ marriage is a marriage that is entered into for the primary purpose of circumventing the immigration laws.”

The scheme involved recruiting U.S. citizens to marry immigrants, who then became eligible for lawful permanent resident status. The immigrants paid between $50,000 and $70,000 for the conspirators to allegedly pair up the couples, create sham marriages—including fake wedding albums—and file false forms with U.S. immigration agencies.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 96 people in the scheme, and has already taken 50 of the defendants into custody. The indictment in the case includes 206 counts total.

“These arrests mark the culmination of a comprehensive year-long multi-agency investigation into one of the largest alleged marriage fraud conspiracies ever documented in the Houston area,” said a statement by Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The attorney who’s facing charges is also known as Nguyen Le Thien Trang. She’s charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud for allegedly using the post office to send mail as part of the marriage fraud scheme. She also faces a charge of mail fraud for allegedly submitting documents that had forged signatures, false statements under penalty of perjury, and fake addresses, cohabitants and employment verification records.

Nguyen faces a charge of obstructing and impeding the due administration of justice for allegedly obstructing or impeding the federal grand jury on March 26 by telling a party of one of the fraudulent marriages, who was also an informant for law enforcement, to go into hiding, avoid air travel and stop giving information to law enforcement. For the same alleged behavior, Nguyen also faces a charge of tampering with a witness.

Nguyen earned her law degree from South Texas College of Law Houston in December 2010, and became licensed in Texas in 2011, according to her State Bar of Texas profile, which noted she doesn’t have any public disciplinary history.

Her profile on her law firm’s website said she practices immigration law, and international business and investments. She was the owner and president of Taura Inc., a Houston-based oil and gas importing and exporting business. Nguyen, who is fluent in Vietnamese and English, has been active in charitable work to help Vietnamese children obtain education and health care, her profile said. She’s also a host of a legal advice program on a Vietnamese American Networking Television channel.

Read the superseding indictment:

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