Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A Yorba Linda woman pleaded guilty Monday to a federal charge linked to 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 to a misdemeanor charge of possession of identification documents to defraud the United States.

U.S. District Judge George Wu set sentencing for March 21, at which time Bhargava faces the possibility of 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.

The three operated now-defunct Maple Eagle Consultants at 20222 State Road in Cerritos, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents executed a search warrant.

The probe began in September 2009, when 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, according to the federal complaint.

The family would recruit unemployed or poor U.S. citizens for $2,000 and arrange for them to marry immigrants.

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 would open joint bank accounts and “rehearse” their stories of getting together, according to court papers.

Clients would pay from $15,000 to $60,000 to obtain visas, prosecutors said.

Some of the American citizens would be shorted on the money they were owed, and some had to badger the Bhargava family to get paid the full amount, according to the government.

When some threatened to report the three to authorities, husband Ajit Bhargava would sometimes call their bluff and tell them the police would not believe a drug addict, prosecutors said.

Ajit Bhargava, 65, previously pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced Jan. 25.

The couple’s daughter, Runjhun Bhargava, 35, also pleaded guilty and was allowed to attend a rehabilitation program through the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

—City News Service

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