Defendant Pleads Guilty to For-Profit Visa Fraud and Immigrant Smuggling Scheme

This afternoon, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Haiyan Liao pleaded guilty to visa fraud and money laundering charges for her role in a multi-year scheme to illegally bring Chinese nationals into the United States for financial gain.  Liao was charged in January 2021. Today’s proceeding was held before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak. 

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace of the Eastern District of New York; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Deputy Assistant Director of Investigations Gregory Batman of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

“Liao was paid thousands of dollars to help lie to the federal government to bring individuals, including unaccompanied minors, into the United States for her own selfish gain,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “This Office stands committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting the integrity of our immigration process.”

“The Criminal Division is committed to prosecuting human smugglers who undermine the rule of law by trying to circumvent our lawful immigration system,” stated Assistant Attorney General Polite. “As Liao’s conviction demonstrates, we will continue to hold accountable people who take advantage of vulnerable populations for personal greed.”

“The Diplomatic Security Service’s global presence enables our agency to serve as a liaison between U.S. and foreign law enforcement counterparts, assisting both in their efforts to stop human trafficking,” stated DSS Acting Deputy Assistant Director of Investigations Batman.   “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates how DSS’ placement around the world can stem the tide of human trafficking and target the criminals who prey on these victims.”

According to court documents, Liao, a naturalized U.S. citizen and native of China, engaged in a scheme with others to assist noncitizens from China to illegally enter the United States.  Liao fraudulently obtained visitor visas for those noncitizens by submitting applications containing false statements to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China.  For the noncitizens whose applications were approved – including four minors – Liao facilitated their travel to the United States, including accompanying them on commercial flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport.  The noncitizens and their families paid thousands of dollars to get to the United States.  As a result of this scheme, Liao reaped at least $98,673.72 in illicit proceeds through wire transmissions from China to the United States.

Liao pleaded guilty to conspiracy to unlawfully bring unauthorized immigrants into the United States for financial gain, which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment. 

The DSS Criminal Fraud Investigations Unit Branch investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nomi Berenson for the Eastern District of New York and Rami Badawy, Acting Deputy Chief of the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case.

The Defendant:

HAIYAN LIAO
Age:  46
Las Vegas, Nevada

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-CR-500 (DG)

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