U.S. federal grand jury indicts Dallas attorney and his assistant for running South Asian marriage fraud scheme

DALLAS: A federal grand jury in Dallas returned a one-count indictment last week charging a Dallas attorney and his assistant with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.

This indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is investigating this case.

Specifically, the indictment charges Bilal Ahmed Khaleeq, 47, and Amna Cheema, 37, with one count each of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. If convicted, the count charged in the indictment carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Khaleeq and Cheema made their initial appearances in federal court Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Horan. Both were released on bond.

According to the indictment, in May 2015, Khaleeq intentionally solicited Person A, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from India, to marry Cheema, a Pakistani national, for the purpose of obtaining U.S. permanent residence for Cheema.

In exchange for entering into a fraudulent marriage and proceeding through the permanent residence process, Person A received a payment of $745, with promises of additional monies upon approval of the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status application (Form I-485).

Cheema and Person A were married in Dallas County on June 15, 2015. Khaleeq arranged the marriage, advised Cheema regarding the filing of the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130), and represented the parties at the interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

After Cheema and Person A had been married, Khaleeq advised the parties on preparing the I-130 petition and supporting documents needed to make the marriage appear legitimate. Khaleeq’s advice included but was not limited to, joint bank accounts, tax returns, bills concerning their joint residence, and other fraudulent evidence, including photos. On July 10, 2015, the parties filed Forms I-130 and I-485 with USCIS.

The indictment further alleges that from January 26, 2016, through March 7, 2017, Khaleeq, Cheema and Person A had several discussions regarding the immigration process and the documentary evidence needed to represent Cheema and Person A as a bona fide married couple for the purposes of obtaining the immigration benefit.

In addition, Khaleeq coached Person A how to address the questions that would be posed during the USCIS interview process. Among other advisals, Khaleeq specifically instructed Person A to tell the USCIS adjudications officer that he cohabitated with Cheema even though that was a false statement. Khaleeq also advised Person A to leave some articles of clothing in Cheema’s residence to make it appear that he was residing there.

Additionally, the parties discussed filing joint tax returns to provide additional evidence and discussed how long Person A and Cheema should remain married in order for her to obtain her U.S. permanent residence.

“Immigration attorneys risk severe consequences when they choose to illegally profit by breaking U.S. immigration laws rather than building a profession on following those laws,” said Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. “HSI leads a Dallas-area Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, and partners daily with many local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws. HSI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate immigration fraud — especially by immigration attorneys.”