Pretending to Be Gay for Political Asylum

We love a good twist on the immigration debate. Rather than trying to gain entry to the U.S. by claiming you will be persecuted at home for your religious beliefs, why not say you need asylum because you will be persecuted for being gay? It’s a valid reason to us … unless, of course, you’re straight and just pretending to be gay to secure asylum. The government considers that fraud — and worth jailing you for.

A federal grand jury has charged two people in an alleged immigration fraud conspiracy, saying they advised straight immigrants to claim homosexuality – and potential persecution in their home countries – when they applied for political asylum.

Steven Mahoney, 41, and his estranged wife, Helen, 38, both naturalized U.S. citizens from Russia, were arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors say Steve Mahoney ran Mahoney and Associates in Kent, and held himself out as an expert in immigration affairs. They say he made money by advising immigrants on how to stay in the U.S.

According to an indictment unsealed Tuesday, from 2003 to 2005 Steven Mahoney advised two immigrants to falsely claim that they were gay and feared persecution if they returned to their home country. In two other cases dating to 1998, he is accused of urging clients to claim they feared being maimed or tortured, though the indictment does not say if they too falsely said they were gay. [Seattle Times]