Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Elk Grove Man Arrested, Charged for Adult Adoption Scheme to Defraud Undocumented Immigrants
Americans Helping America Chamber of Commerce Promised Citizenship to Members of Its “Migration Program” for a Price
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Helaman Hansen, 63, of Elk Grove, was arrested today after a federal grand jury returned a 13-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, 11 counts of mail fraud, and one count of wire fraud for operating a fraudulent adult-adoption program that targeted undocumented aliens, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, between October 2012 and January 2016, Hansen and others used various entities such as Americans Helping America (AHA) to sell members of immigrant communities memberships in what he called a “Migration Program.” A central feature of the program was the fraudulent claim that immigrant adults could achieve U.S. citizenship by being legally adopted by an American citizen and completing a list of additional tasks. At first, memberships were sold for annual fees of $150, but that fee gradually grew and eventually was as high as $10,000.
According to the indictment, although some victims completed the adoption stage of the “Migration Program,” not one person obtained citizenship. As early as October 2012, Hansen had been informed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that aliens adopted after their sixteenth birthdays could not obtain citizenship in the manner Hansen was promoting. Despite that notification, Hansen and his co-conspirators induced approximately 500 victims to pay more than $500,000 to join the fraudulent program.
“The indictment returned today alleges a particularly predatory and manipulative type of fraud that takes advantage of the hopes and dreams of undocumented immigrants to extract fees based on false promises,” stated U.S. Attorney Wagner. “The adoption of adult aliens is not a legitimate path to U.S. citizenship. While the charges against this defendant are only allegations at this point, no one should pay fees to anyone making false promises of citizenship through adult adoption.”
“This alleged crime victimized vulnerable, would-be immigrants seeking a legitimate pathway to U.S. citizenship. The victims trusted an individual who misrepresented the success of adult adoption in such matters,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Sacramento field office. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is committed to work with its law enforcement partners to investigate and disrupt fraudulent schemes that exploit vulnerable people for financial gain.”
“It is very unfortunate that some in our communities would choose to misrepresent the American immigration system to deceive and hurt those who are trying only to make a better life for themselves and their families,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “It is our entrusted duty to hold these criminals accountable for their actions – and so we shall.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant U.S. Attorney André M. Espinosa is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Hansen faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Victims are encouraged to call the FBI at 916-977-2479.