Couple caught setting up over 100 sham marriages for pay

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Yorba Linda woman pleaded guilty in downtown Los Angeles on Monday in a scheme to set up fake marriages for people from India who wanted to stay in the U.S.

Federal authorities said 61-year-old Nisha Bhargava and her husband were involved in an immigration scheme where people paid thousands of dollars for fraudulent services.

"Primarily Indian nationals so that they can enter into sham marriages with U.S. citizens so that they could obtain their green cards," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

The couple and their daughter were arrested in 2011 after reaching a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Bhargava pleaded guilty to possessing an identification document to defraud the U.S. with a state of California birth certificate she submitted to immigration officials for the purpose of obtaining a fraudulently issued immigrant visa for a client.

"We thought that it was more appropriate that she be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Her husband, who allegedly ran the operation and was responsible for most of the criminal conduct, has pleaded guilty to a series of felony counts," Mrozek said.

While Ajit Bhargava could face decades in federal prison, his wife faces a maximum of one year.

Both shielded their faces as they left the courthouse and did not comment on the case.

The U.S. Attorney's Office estimated as many as 100 Indian nationals paid extravagant sums of money to get a green cards, and in cases like these, low income U.S. citizens are a target.

"People who are down and out, homeless people, drug addicts, and other people who want to make some quick money and who will lend their identity and enter into a fake marriage and go through interviews with immigration authorities," Mrozek added.

Bhargava was due back in court for sentencing on March 21.
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