Essex County Mother and Son Admit Marriage Fraud Scheme
Newark, N.J. – August 11, 2023 – In a significant legal development, a mother and son from Essex County, New Jersey, have admitted their involvement in a scheme to harbor non-U.S. citizens through marriage fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
Andrea Torres, 56, residing in Newark, pleaded guilty on August 10, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court. This plea comes in response to a two-count indictment which charged Andrea Torres, along with others, with a conspiracy to harbor non-U.S. citizens through orchestrating fraudulent marriages between the non-citizens and U.S. citizens. In a parallel development, her son, Philip Torres, 27, also of Newark, pleaded guilty to Count Two of the same superseding indictment.
According to court documents and statements made during the proceedings:
Between September 2016 and March 2021, Andrea Torres and her sister, Regina Johnson, allegedly coordinated and facilitated sham marriages for non-U.S. citizens aspiring to remain in the United States despite their lack of legal status or proper documentation. These fraudulent unions were orchestrated by recruiting U.S. citizens as potential spouses. In exchange for their participation in these counterfeit marriages, the U.S. citizens were paid a fee. These sham unions aimed to deceive immigration authorities and allow non-citizens to remain in the United States.
During the period of March 2021 to June 2021, Andrea Torres’ son, Philip, joined the illicit operation. He took part in officiating some of the sham marriages. The fraud escalated as they procured fake marriage licenses, staged wedding ceremonies, and even organized after-parties for these fabricated unions, all designed to give an appearance of legitimacy. Moreover, the participants were advised to create joint bank accounts and maintain regular interaction with their supposed U.S. spouses. The orchestrated couples were also directed to take staged photographs in various settings, suggesting cohabitation. However, in reality, none of the couples intended to reside together. The scheme’s perpetrators then assisted their clients in completing immigration forms containing materially false information, with the intention of securing permanent residency based on these fraudulent misrepresentations. It was previously revealed that Regina Johnson had pleaded guilty to Count One of the superseding indictment.
Each count of conspiracy to which Andrea Torres and Philip Torres pleaded guilty carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a substantial fine of up to $250,000 or double the monetary gain or loss stemming from the offense, whichever is greater. The sentencing for both individuals has been scheduled for December 14, 2023.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger extended his acknowledgment to the special agents and members of Homeland Security Investigations Newark, led by Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel, for their diligent investigative efforts. Additionally, he expressed gratitude towards U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for their assistance in the case.
The prosecution team comprises Assistant U.S. Attorney Sammi Malek of the National Security Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake A. Coppotelli of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
For legal representation:
- Andrea Torres: Peter R. Willis Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey
- Philip Torres: Stephen Natoli Esq., Secaucus, New Jersey
- Regina Johnson: Henry Klingemann Esq. and Raquel R. Rivera Esq., Morristown, New Jersey
Case Reference: 23-229