(Newswire.net — October 5, 2018) — Two Bridgeport businessmen have been arrested for a series of federal offenses. The first man is 34 year old Bridgeport resident Jodian Stephenson, who also goes by the name Jodian Gordon, and the second is 62 year old Donovan Lawrence of New Milford. The two men were charged with 14 counts relating to an extensive immigration and marriage fraud scheme that they planned and executed.
The pair appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport. According to the indictment, Stephenson was allegedly operating Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services LLC while Lawrence was allegedly running Donovan’s Accounting Services LLC. For a period spanning from about July 2012 to July 2017, Stephenson and Lawrence used their businesses as a front to orchestrate fraudulent marriages between U.S. citizens and non-citizens who were living in the country. The objective of these marriage scams was for the non U.S. citizen to be able to get a green card to obtain legal residency in the United States.
The scam activity included creating and submitting fraudulent documents such as tax returns and marriage licenses to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service on behalf of the non-citizen who was portrayed as being “married” to a citizen. The pair received hefty funds from their ‘clients’ for their illegal services. The indictment relates specifically to nine cases in which falsified paperwork was submitted.
According to immigration lawyers at The Shapiro Law Group, attempted marriage fraud is a “popular” route for scam artists because it can reduce the waiting time for a visa from about five years to just three months if the non-citizen marries an American citizen.
Stephenson and Lawrence’s fraudulent scheme was revealed in an undercover operation in which the pair were caught red-handed. The men were charged with one count of conspiracy for committing immigration marriage fraud and false statements and another six counts of making false statements. Additionally, Stephenson was charged with seven counts of immigration documents fraud.
Each count of the charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, with the extra charges against Stephenson carrying a maximum term of 10 years per count.
The department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement considers marriage fraud a serious crime that carries with it severe penalties of prison time and hefty fines.