A Kent couple who claimed to be experts in immigration cases advised clients to falsely claim to be gay and subject to persecution or even death if they returned home so they could win asylum in the U.S., according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Steven and Helena Mahoney were arrested Tuesday after an investigation that began in September, according to federal officials. Prosecutors allege the couple claimed to be experts in immigration cases while operating Mahoney and Associates in Kent.
The Mahoneys — who are not licensed to practice law in the state of Washington — are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud. Steven Mahoney also has been charged with three counts of immigration fraud, according to the indictment.
They appeared Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler, who ordered Steven Mahoney to be held pending a detention hearing on Friday. Helena Mahoney was released.
The judge set the trial for Jan. 29.
The indictment alleges that in at least three instances the Mahoneys told immigrants to falsely state they were homosexual on immigration documents and that they feared persecution or even death if they returned to their own countries.
The three victims are identified only by initials, and the indictment does not indicate what countries they were from.
In one instance, involving an individual identified only as A.K., Steven Mahoney is alleged to have advised him to say on immigration applications that he was gay and that the militia in his country had attempted to rape his wife because of it, according to the indictment. Helena Mahoney allegedly helped the man obtain “documents about the gay community to assist A.K. in preparing for his asylum interview,” the indictment alleges.
Another immigrant, identified as G.V., reportedly submitted documents to the immigration officials claiming that he was afraid he would be maimed if he returned to his homeland “when in truth … G.V. was not afraid of such maiming,” according to the indictment.
It’s not clear whether any of the three immigrants mentioned in the indictment was granted asylum status and allowed to stay in the U.S.
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