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Fairfield County Woman Among Two Charged With Running Marriage Fraud Scheme

United States Court for the District of Connecticut in Bridgeport.
United States Court for the District of Connecticut in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut

A 14-count indictment was unsealed on Friday detailing charges against two Connecticut residents, including one from Fairfield County, accused of operating an extensive immigration marriage fraud scheme, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Jodian Stephenson, 34, of Bridgeport --also known as “Jodian Gordon,” and Donovan Lawrence, 62, of Milford, were charged, according to John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, and Christopher W. Fonda, Supervisory Immigration Officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Fraud Detection and National Security.

The indictment was returned on June 5 and Stephenson and Lawrence were arrested on Friday, June 22.

They both appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport and were released on bonds in the amount of $350,000 and $100,000, respectively.

As alleged in the indictment, Stephenson has operated Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services, LLC, in Bridgeport, and Lawrence has operated Donovans Accounting Services, LLC, in Bridgeport.

Federal officials said that between July 2012 and July 2017, Stephenson, Lawrence and others conspired to arrange sham marriages between U.S. citizens and non-citizens residing in the U.S. for the purpose of the non-citizens’ applying for and obtaining “lawful permanent residence” status, also known as a “green card.”

As part of the alleged scheme, Stephenson and Lawrence made and filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service false documents, including fraudulent green card applications and false tax returns in the names of the allegedly “married” couples, the indictment alleges.

The indictment identifies nine false marriages that resulted in the filing of fraudulent green card applications. During the investigation, is it alleged that Stephenson offered to arrange a sham marriage for a federal law enforcement agent working in an undercover capacity, and help obtain a green card for the undercover agent, in exchange for a proposed fee of $20,000.

Stephenson then introduced the undercover agent to a U.S. citizen, advised them about the ways they could create the appearance that they were validly married and living together as husband and wife, and helped the undercover agent obtain a marriage license in exchange for a cash payment of $5,000 from the undercover agent.

The indictment charges both Stephenson and Lawrence with one count of conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud and make false statements, and six counts of making false statements.

The charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on each count. The indictment also charges Stephenson with seven counts of immigration documents fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count.

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