Issaquah resident accused of arranging ‘sham marriages’ for Thai Ginger employees

June 23, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 3:36 p.m. June 23, 2009

Immigration agents arrested Issaquah restaurateur Varee Bradford today on federal charges of paying her employees to enter “sham marriages” with Thai citizens to help them to stay in the United States. Bradford, 43, operates the chain of Thai Ginger restaurants.

Authorities unsealed a federal grand-jury indictment in U.S. District Court in Seattle today against Bradford and former Thai Ginger employee Porramin Tangchaiwanna, 32, known by the nickname Golf.

The indictment accuses Bradford of offering her employees up to $25,000 to enter sham marriages with her Thai relatives for immigration purposes.

Bradford is charged with four immigration crimes stemming from four instances from 2001 to 2007 in which marriages were set up between Thai Ginger employees and her relatives. The charges against Bradford include a single count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud and three counts of fraud related to providing false information on immigration paperwork.

Tangchaiwanna is charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud. Authorities said he helped Bradford set up a sham marriage with an undercover immigration agent.

In 2001, authorities said Bradford asked a female employee to marry a male relative who needed to sponsor his daughter, who lived in Thailand, to come to the United States. Bradford later loaned the woman $3,780.

Authorities said Bradford asked a female employee in 2005 to marry a Thai citizen to help him obtain a permanent resident “green card.” Bradford offered the woman $20,000 and told the woman she would only have to remain married for two years, until the man received a green card, according to the documents. Throughout 2005 and 2006, the employee received payments amounting to more than $20,000.

In another 2005 instance, Bradford asked a male employee to marry a female relative who wanted to bring her two children to the United States. Bradford paid the man $10,000 to $15,000 for the marriage, the documents said.

Bradford arranged for her nephew to marry a female employee in 2006. That employee was paid $15,000, the documents said.

Authorities said the scheme began to unravel when an undercover Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent met with Bradford and Tangchaiwanna in February 2008 at a Thai Ginger in Seattle. Bradford introduced the agent to a woman identified as Nikki and told the agent she would pay him $20,000 to marry the woman, court documents said.

Tangchaiwanna told the agent he would receive his first $5,000 on the day of the wedding and his final $5,000 payment the day Nikki received a green card. Bradford and Tangchaiwanna then instructed the agent to speak with Nikki frequently in order to prepare for the immigration interview. Bradford told the agent he would have to stay married for two years, the documents said.

Thai Ginger operates restaurants on the Eastside in Klahanie, Redmond and Factoria. The chain also includes two Seattle restaurants and a counter at Safeco Field.

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