A California man has been charge in connection with an alleged scam that promised citizenship to immigrants for fees of up to $10,000. The operation used adult adoptions as its method for gaining citizenship for immigrants who were willing to pay the fee. The 63-year-old man who ran the operation was charged with conspiracy and twelve fraud charges on Feb. 11.
Adult adoptions are legal in the United States. They are sometimes used in cases where an adult is disabled, to formalize parent and child relationships and in estate planning. They do not affect citizenship status, however. The man’s company promised citizenship by way of adult adoptions and initially charged a membership fee of $150, but eventually raised that rate to as high as $10,000. Agents were paid $1,500 for each person they signed up. The operation, which began in 2012, brought in at least $500,000 from immigrants in California and six other states, according to authorities.
The owner of the operation told news media that the federal investigation probably came about due to the inappropriate handling of adoptions by a former employee. A U.S. attorney involved in the investigation said that it was complicated because immigrants were fearful of being deported if they gave information. He said deportation was not the goal of the investigation, which took about a year to complete.
The path to citizenship is not always straightforward, and can be complicated by the complexities of the law, language barriers or other circumstances. Naturalization is the process by which a foreign-born U.S. resident may become a citizen. People who are seeking U.S. citizenship may want to have legal guidance and assistance in navigating the process.