Two area men charged in immigration marriage fraud scheme

A Milford and a Bridgeport man were charged with federal offenses related to an immigration marriage fraud scheme, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

John H. Durham, U.S 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, announced Friday in a press release the unsealing of a 14-count indictment charging Jodian Stephenson, also known as “Jodian Gordon,” 34, of Bridgeport, and Donovan Lawrence, 62, of Milford with various federal offenses related to what they called an “extensive immigration marriage fraud scheme.”

The indictment was returned on June 5 and Stephenson and Lawrence were arrested today, according to a press release issued Friday, June 22. The two appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport and were released on bonds of $350,000 and $100,000, respectively.

The indictment alleges that Stephenson has operated Stephenson Immigration and Legal Services, LLC, in Bridgeport, and Lawrence has operated Donovans Accounting Services, LLC, in Bridgeport. Between approximately July 2012 and July 2017, Stephenson, Lawrence and others conspired to arrange sham marriages between U.S. citizens and non-citizens living in the United States for the purpose of the non-citizens applying for and obtaining “lawful permanent residence” status, also known as a “green card,” officials said in the press release issued Friday.

“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 press release states.

The indictment identifies nine false marriages that resulted in the filing of fraudulent green card applications. Officials allege that Stephenson offered to arrange a sham marriage for a federal law enforcement agent working undercover, 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,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.

The indictment charges Stephenson and Lawrence with one count of conspiracy to commit immigration marriage fraud and make false statements, and six counts of making false statements. These charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on each count, officials said.

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.