The owner of a Los Angeles-area immigration consulting business and one of his employees are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court Thursday for their alleged role in a scheme involving hundreds of Chinese nationals who sought asylum in the United States based upon phony claims of religious persecution.
Haoren Ma, 47, of San Gabriel, Calif., owner of New Arrival Immigration Service, and Minghan Dong, 55, of San Gabriel, Calif., an employee of Ma’s, were taken into custody Wednesday afternoon by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents. Ma was arrested at his San Gabriel residence. Dong was taken into custody at New Arrival’s San Gabriel office.
The two men are charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court with immigration benefit fraud and failing to disclose their role as preparers on the asylum applications. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
According to the case affidavit, Ma and Dong charged from $3,500 to $6,500 to prepare and file the fraudulent asylum applications. In those filings, the defendants claimed their Chinese clients fled China after being persecuted for their Christian beliefs. That, despite the fact two of the asylum applicants whose cases are cited in the affidavit told the defendants they were Buddhists.
Over the course of the investigation, HSI agents reviewed dozens of asylum applications prepared by the defendants. The affidavit notes many of those applications contained nearly identical accounts of purported persecution, including descriptions of underground church meetings that led to the applicant’s arrest and torture by Chinese authorities. The affidavit goes on to describe how the defendants provided their clients with detailed written materials and audio tapes on Christianity to help them prepare for their asylum interviews. One of the DVDs furnished to a confidential informant posing as an asylum seeker was labeled “Jesus 1.”
Based upon queries of databases maintained by the immigration courts, ICE HSI investigators have linked the defendants to more than 800 asylum applications filed since 2000, making it one of the largest asylum fraud cases uncovered in the Los Angeles area in recent years.