NORTH LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that SHELDON STEPHENSON, 28, of North Lauderdale, Florida, pleaded guilty yesterday to a conspiracy charge stemming from his participation in an immigration marriage fraud scheme.
Pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the court proceeding before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea occurred via videoconference.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Jodian Stephenson operated Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services, LLC, in Bridgeport. Between 2011 and 2017, Jodian Stephenson conspired with others, including Sheldon Stephenson, to arrange 28 sham marriages between U.S. citizens and non-citizens residing in the U.S. for the purpose of the non-citizens’ applying for and obtaining “lawful permanent residence” (“LPR”) status, also known as a “green card.”
As part of the scheme, Jodian Stephenson prepared several immigration documents needed as part of the non-citizen’s LPR application. She had the applicant and spouse sign the documents and, in many cases, mailed the documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service immigration authorities for the applicant. In some cases, Jodian Stephenson or her assistants prepared other false documents for the couple, such as a false lease that portrayed the couple as living together.
Jodian Stephenson typically charged between $17,000 and $20,000 to complete this process for a non-citizen, and the citizen spouse received between $2,000 and $4,000 for his or her participation.
In pleading guilty, Sheldon Stephenson admitted that he assisted Jodian Stephenson in arranging four such sham marriages. Sheldon Stephenson helped to introduce the couples, helped them obtain marriage licenses, prepared their immigration paperwork, and coached them for their immigration service interviews.
Sheldon Stephenson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. He is released on a $50,000 bond while awaiting sentencing, which is not scheduled.
On August 19, 2019, Jodian Stephenson pleaded guilty to the same offense. She also awaits sentencing.
Six other individuals, including U.S. citizens who entered into one or more fraudulent marriages with non-citizens, have been convicted for participating in this scheme.
This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Office of Fraud Detection and National Security. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry K. Kopel.