Two Bridgeport businessmen – one operating in the immigration and legal services sector and the other operating an accountancy firm – have been arrested and charged with 14 counts related to an extensive immigration marriage fraud scheme.
Bridgeport resident Jodian Stephenson, also known as Jodian Gordon, and New Milford resident Donovan Lawrence appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport on June 22 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, while Lawrence has operated Donovan’s Accounting Services LLC, both in Bridgeport. Between approximately July 2012 and July 2017, Stephenson, Lawrence and others are alleged to have conspired to arrange sham marriages between U.S. citizens and noncitizens residing in the U.S. for the purpose of the noncitizens’ 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 identifies nine false marriages that resulted in the filing of fraudulent green card applications. During the investigation, Stephenson allegedly 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 purportedly 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.
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. Those 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.