Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento man draws two-year prison sentence for marriage fraud scheme

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for his role in a marriage fraud scheme.

Sippy Lal, 62, was sentenced Friday for conspiring to induce foreign nationals to enter the United States illegally for private financial gain, according to a U.S. attorney’s office.

According to court documents, from at least Oct. 24, 2006, until Jan. 10, 2012, Lal and co-defendants Mamta Sharma, 37, and Rani Singh-Lal, 30, both of Sacramento, were involved in an elaborate immigration fraud scheme involving foreign nationals from India who paid to enter into sham engagements or marriages with locally recruited U.S. citizens in an effort to legalize their immigration status.

The citizens Lal recruited were paid thousands of dollars to fly to India, meet and take pictures with a purported spouse, and sometimes enter into actual marriages, though often using aliases, authorities said. Fraudulent petitions then were filed with the United States seeking visas allowing the Indian citizens to enter and reside in the U.S.

On at least one occasion, after a foreign national entered the country on a fraudulent fiancé visa, Lal paid a U.S. citizen to further participate by entering into a sham marriage with the foreign national in Sacramento, authorities said.

Sharma used various aliases to pose as a U.S. citizen in five petitions filed since 2008, although she is not a U.S. citizen and was married to Lal throughout that time period. Singh-Lal posed as a petitioner in three petitions, all filed with slight variations of her true name, authorities said.

Court documents indicate that more than 25 fraudulent petitions were submitted to immigration authorities as a result of the conspiracy, and at least nine Indian nationals entered the United States and were able to avoid detection for a period of time.

Sharma and Singh-Lal previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 24 months and 27 months in prison, respectively.

The case resulted from an investigation by a fraud detection unit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence.

Cathy Locke