(CN) – An immigration consultant who told clients seeking asylum to falsely claim they were gay has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiracy to commit immigration fraud. Steven Mahoney, operator of Mahoney and Associates, admitted filing as many as 99 false immigration documents between 1998 and 2007.
Mahoney’s wife Helena was sentenced to 6 months in prison for providing asylum seekers “information about the gay community” to help them pass immigration interviews, according to the indictment in federal court in Seattle.
The indictment claims Mahoney coached clients to say they feared being tortured in their home country because they were gay or because of their religion. Mahoney charged from $1,000 to $4,000 for each application.
Prosecutors told the court, “The threat of persecution in Eastern Europe based on sexual orientation and religion is real. By advising immigrants to falsely claim that they were gay or Jewish, [the Mahoneys] diminished the chance of those who genuinely seek asylum for those reasons.”