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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Woman admits casino theft

According to federal authorities, organizers of a phony marriage scheme courted individuals with major casino debts, offering them the chance to marry Vietnamese and Chinese nationals in exchange for annulling their gambling debts. These Asian citizens paid the gang large sums of money for their assistance in obtaining U.S. green cards in such an unusual manner. Among the hottest recruiting sites were the Morongo Casino and Resort in Cabazon, California, and the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, California.

After a long-time investigation, U.S. officials arrested 55 individuals this week on suspicions of being involved in the phony marriage operation. In addition, Marian Therese Thai, a resident of Westminster, Colorado who is suspected of heading the organization, turned herself in to authorities on Friday. Thai is charged with conspiracy, harboring aliens, marriage fraud and other felonies.

Officials were reported as saying that the gang, called Operation Newlywed Game, was extremely complex. The operatives charged Asians up to $60,000 to wed American citizens with casino debts, who were willing to commit a felony for the right price. Thai is suspected of producing fake wedding pictures, love letters and joint tax returns. The scam was revealed by immigration agency employees who caught U.S. citizens petitioning for more than one spouse to be given green cards.

Heather Tallchief, 33, has turned herself in and pleaded guilty to bank and credit union embezzlement and passport fraud. The woman admitted driving a car full of cash from the Circus hotel-casino in Las Vegas to a garage, where her son's father and partner in crime, Roberto Solis, loaded it to another vehicle. The two fled the country and Solis, an ex-convict, remains a fugitive. Tallchief has lived in Amsterdam since 1993 under a fake name.

Tallchief reported she has no clue as to Solis' whereabouts, nor where the $2.9 million they stole is. However, she has agreed to repay the casinos' money by selling copyrights to any author or movie producer that may be interested in her story.