William La Jeunesse reported this morning on a California father and daughter who were busted for setting up phony weddings in order to help wealthy Chinese nationals stay in the United States.

According to officials, the two are tied to more than 70 immigration applications going back to 2006.

Here's how it worked:

The man, 65-year-old Jason Shiao, and his daughter, 43-year-old Lynn Leung, are accused by federal authorities of brokering fake marriages between American citizens and Chinese nationals. 

The Chinese bride or groom would allegedly pay up to $50,000 because marrying an American could allow he or she to stay in the country legally. 

Another man still sought by the feds, 48-year-old Shannon Mendoza, allegedly recruited Americans in need of money and introduced them to the couple. 

 

The American participant would then get a few thousand dollars to participate in a fake wedding, like this one. 

 

The American participant would also be asked to pose for photos and sign documents, like bank statements and leases, to create a phony paper trail for immigration applications.

Eventually, the couple failed to pay one of the Americans, and that person called immigration officials about the scheme. 

Prosecutors say in many cases, the American participants were stiffed on the money that was promised to them. Shiao and Leung now face up to five years in prison if convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

Read more details on the case from Reuters:

In one case, the duo arranged a wedding for a Chinese national who agreed to pay US$50,000 for what she thought would be a real marriage, only to learn the U.S. citizen chosen for her was a gay man, according to an affidavit.

Leung told the Chinese woman the wedding was a "business deal," the affidavit said. In other cases, the conspirators arranged fake honeymoon trips to Las Vegas, and coached the bogus couples on what to tell immigration authorities, it said.

The case stands out from similar schemes because of the high prices of $40,000 to $50,000 which Shiao and Leung were able to charge Chinese nationals for the scam marriages, said U.S. Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge Claude Arnold.

"There has been a period of affluence in China, so there are people of means who have the money and have a desire to immigrate to the United States," Arnold said.

Investigators on Wednesday raided an office in Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles, that Shiao set up as a fake law firm, Arnold said.