Crime - Sacto 911

Defendant denied bail in Sacramento immigration fraud case

Helaman Hansen, right, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, to immigration fraud. Also depicted are Assistant U.S. Attorney André Espinosa, left, and Federal Defender Heather Williams.
Helaman Hansen, right, pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, to immigration fraud. Also depicted are Assistant U.S. Attorney André Espinosa, left, and Federal Defender Heather Williams. Special to The Bee

A lawyer for accused immigration fraudster Helaman Hansen failed Wednesday to convince a federal magistrate judge that her client should be released on an unsecured appearance bond.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire said she is not convinced, based on the evidence before her, that Hansen is not a potential flight risk. Federal Defender Heather Williams told Claire, “There is no security available that we can lay our hands on,” but she suggested a bond backed up only by the signatures of Hansen and his sister.

That “is not enough,” the judge said.

Prosecutors say Hansen, 63, of Elk Grove, induced more than 500 undocumented immigrants from coast to coast to pay a total of more than $500,000 in order to secure permanent U.S. status that would relieve them of the fear of deportation.

According to prosecutors, he lured victims of the scam with false promises of citizenship attained through a program wherein he and associates would arrange for them to be adopted as adults by American citizens. From there, prosecutors say he assured the victims, it would be a smooth pathway to naturalization.

Assistant U.S. Attorney André Espinosa told Claire at the bail hearing Wednesday that Hansen appears to be a congenital liar, has connections overseas and may have hidden assets that would facilitate flight. His arguments carried the day.

Claire said Hansen’s “extensive international contacts and the possibility he has access to a lot of financial resources that have not been disclosed” creates concerns that were not allayed by Williams’ arguments.

The federal defender acknowledged that Hansen “moved from Australia, but that was 16 years ago, (he) does have significant ties, including family members, elsewhere.” However, Williams said, she is confident Claire could impose conditions on his pretrial release that would ensure his presence at in-court proceedings.

Hansen’s wife was in the courtroom with his passport and was prepared to surrender it to the government, Williams added.

Culminating an investigation of more than a year by FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents, Hansen was arrested last Thursday after being indicted on 12 counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy. He entered a plea of not guilty Friday.

Prosecutors say Hansen found success initially among natives of Fiji and expanded from there to other immigrant communities.

A Jan. 18 article in The Fiji Times Online said that Hansen, in a YouTube video, had threatened hundreds of undocumented immigrants that unless they attended a Jan. 31 meeting he would “release the names of overstayers to Homeland Security.”

A biography posted online by Hansen says: “Dr. Hansen has obtained several degrees: Bachelor of Arts Degree, Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering, Bachelors of Science in Business, Masters of Business Administration, and a Doctorate Degree in Business and Marketing Management.

“Amid his great accomplishments in the business field, he also found time to expand his education in fields such as Psychology, Business Law, Human Relations Management, Community Leadership, and Migration Law.”

The biography says he was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1952. It says he worked in Australia “in hotel management with large tourist organizations, as a product manager for an auto engineering manufacturing company, as a general project manager for the British Petroleum Oil Company and was the Chief Migration Adviser for the Australian Federal Government.

“He is married … and is the proud father of three children, 23 grand children, and the excited father of 18 adopted children,” the bio reads.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments