The United States Department of Justice says an American had been arrested and charged with defrauding Caribbean and other immigrants.
The DOJ said Helaman Hansen, 63, was arrested after a U.S. federal grand jury returned a 13-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud for operating a fraudulent adult-adoption program that targeted undocumented immigrants.
According to court documents, between October 2012 and January 2016, Hansen and others used various entities, such as Americans Helping America, to sell members of immigrant communities, memberships in what he called a “Migration Program.”
A central feature of the program was the fraudulent claim that immigrant adults could achieve U.S. citizenship by being legally adopted by an American citizen and completing a list of additional tasks.
At first, memberships were sold for annual fees of $150, but that fee gradually grew and eventually was as high as $10,000, according to the indictment.
“The indictment returned today alleges a particularly predatory and manipulative type of fraud that takes advantage of the hopes and dreams of undocumented immigrants to extract fees based on false promises,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner for the Eastern District of California.
“The adoption of adult aliens is not a legitimate path to U.S. citizenship. While the charges against this defendant are only allegations at this point, no one should pay fees to anyone making false promises of citizenship through adult adoption,” he said.
Ryan L. Spradlin, the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigation’s San Francisco Field Office, said, “It is very unfortunate that some in our communities would choose to misrepresent the American immigration system to deceive and hurt those who are trying only to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
According to the indictment, although some victims completed the adoption stage of the “Migration Program,” not one person obtained citizenship.
The indictment states that, as early as October 2012, Hansen was informed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that immigrants adopted after their 16th birthdays could not obtain citizenship in the manner Hansen was promoting.
“Despite that notification, Hansen and his co-conspirators induced approximately 500 victims to pay more than [U.S.] $500,000 to join the fraudulent program,” the DOJ said.
If convicted, Hansen faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the DOJ said.