A Yorba Linda immigration "consultant" pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to running a visa fraud scheme that charged up to $60,000 to
arrange sham marriages for citizens of India who wanted to remain in the United States.
Nisha Bhargava, 61, entered her plea at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to a misdemeanor charge of possession of identification documents to defraud the United States.
Judge George Wu set sentencing for March 21, at which time Bhargava faces up to six months behind bars.
Bhargava was arrested along with her husband and daughter in April 2011 and charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Ajit Bhargava, 65, previously pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 25. The couple's daughter, Runjhun Bhargava, 35, pleaded guilty and was
allowed to attend a rehabilitation program.
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The family operated now-defunct Maple Eagle Consultants in Cerritos, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents
executed a search warrant after an agent noticed a pattern on visa applications from people who came to the U.S. on non-immigrant visas such
as those for students or tourists and married low-income U.S. citizens.
The ICE probe concluded the Bhargavas recruited unemployed or poor U.S. citizens for $2,000 and arranged for them to marry immigrants.
Like in the movie Green Card, the "married" couples would take photos of each other and change clothes to make it appear the pictures were taken on different days, and they rehearsed their stories of getting together, according to the federal complaint, which notes clients paid from $15,000 to $60,000 to obtain visas.
According to the feds, when some poor people hired as props complained they were being shorted on money owed, Ajit Bhargava told them to go ahead and call police because no one would believe a drug addict.