L.A. man convicted for arranging hundreds of sham marriages

A 42-year-old man from Los Angeles has been convicted by a federal jury in Boston for his participation in arranging more than 300 “sham marriages” for the purpose of getting around U.S. immigration laws, authorities announced Thursday.

Engilbert Ulan, a Philippine national who lives in L.A., was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and immigration document fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Ulan was arrested and charged along with 11 others in April 2022 in connection with the marriage fraud ‘agency’ operated by Marcialito ‘Mars’ Benitez,” authorities said.

Starting around 2019, Ulan, Benitez and other co-conspirators ran the large-scale marriage fraud operation out of brick-and-mortar offices in Los Angeles.

As part of the illegal scheme, the 42-year-old worked to arrange hundreds of spurious marriages between foreign national “clients” and legitimate U.S. citizens, including one foreign national living in Massachusetts.

He and others involved in the illegal scheme prepared and submitted false petitions, applications and other documents to substantiate the sham marriages in hopes of getting their foreign national client’s immigration statuses adjusted.

“After pairing foreign national clients with citizen spouses, the agency booked appointments to stage fake wedding ceremonies at chapels, parks and other locations, performed by hired online officiants,” the release noted. “For many clients, the agency would take photos of undocumented clients and citizen spouses in front of prop wedding decorations for later submission with immigration petitions.”

As part of his duties, Ulan helped clients and fake spouses prepare for interviews with immigration authorities, coaching them on how to hide their fraudulent marriage and fabricate answers to questions asked during green card interviews.

  • L.A. man convicted for arranging hundreds of sham marriages
    Staged wedding photos taken for foreign national clients and their fake spouses. (U.S. DOJ)
  • L.A. man convicted for arranging hundreds of sham marriages
    A portion of instructions on how to fabricate answers in order to pass green card interviews with immigration authorities. (U.S. DOJ)

A fee of $20,000 to $30,000 was charged for these services, authorities said.

“For six years, this fraudster made thousands of dollars by operating a fake agency aimed at creating marriage fraud,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “The sham marriages and illicit immigration benefits discovered in this case wasted countless federal resources which delayed an unknown number of legitimate marriages between foreign nationals and U.S. citizens and threatened national security by enabling individuals to remain in the country through deceit.”

Driver blasts Google Maps for desert road detour on trip to L.A.

The 42-year-old is the 10th person convicted in this case, with nine of his co-defendants having pleaded guilty, authorities said. Benitez pleaded guilty in September and is scheduled to be sentenced in Jan. 2024.

Ulan is scheduled to be sentenced in March 2024.

The charges of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and immigration document fraud come with a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, three years of supervised release and up to a $250,000 fine.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to KTLA.