(ESPAÑOL) Tarunkumar and Sachin Patel, and up to 17 others, face prison time due to their part in an immigration marriage scam to secure legal status for their friends and business associates from India.
The men said that in 2011 they arranged four sham marriages between their friends and American women the two Patels had met. The two are business acquaintances. Then in 2014, Tarunkumar Patel said he began bribing a Mississippi police officer to create false crime reports in an effort to get immigration authorities to grant them special visas for victims of certain types of crimes.
The Patels, former Jackson officer Ivory Harris and lawyer Simpson Goodman pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Jackson to conspiracy charges, as did two of the men who benefited from the fake police reports. The Patels and Goodman face up to 10 years in prison, having pleaded guilty to both marriage fraud and the police report fraud.
A seventh defendant pleaded guilty Friday, and more guilty pleas from others in the scheme are scheduled this month. Nineteen people were indicted in two linked cases in April.
The 50-year-old Tarunkumar Patel, who operates a store in a poor area of Jackson, said he arranged the first marriage when a friend came down from Massachusetts. That friend, Virenda Rajput, met a woman who was a frequent customer of the store.
They married, and the woman took Rajput’s name, becoming Javona Shanice Rajput. But Virenda Rajput returned to his own job in Massachusetts, coming back to Jackson only once every two or three months.
The Patels said they paid the women money on behalf of their friends, although not very large sums. Tarunkumar Patel said the most he ever gave Javona Rajput at one time was $300.
Tarunkumar Patel was also the prime mover in the fake police reports, approaching Harris, who visited the store often as part of his beat.
Harris said Patel paid him $500 per report at first. “Then one time, when I had questions about it, he told me, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ and gave me $1,000,” Harris said. The reports usually claimed the people had been assaulted or robbed at gunpoint, even though they were all false.
Doing the paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was Goodman, an acquaintance of Sachin Patel.
“I continued to represent these clients before USCIS once I understood the marriages were not 100 percent for love,” Goodman said.