SACRAMENTO, California — A man accused of bilking hundreds of illegal immigrants out of over $1 million with the false promise of securing them citizenship by having them adopted as adults, has been convicted of fraud.
Helaman Hansen, 64, of Elk Grove, California was accused of running the bizarre and elaborate scheme from 2012 through 2016, netting as much as $10,000 from each of the immigrants he conned.
The scam was based around the bogus promise that the victims would be granted U.S. citizenship if they were legally adopted by an American. Hansen did arrange for several adult victims to be adopted but none ever received citizenship as the law only allows someone under the age of 16 to be granted such status following an adoption.
In reality, adult adoptions are exceedingly rare, and Hansen’s con came unwound when court officials in the Sacramento and Alameda Superior Courts noticed an unusual amount of such adoptions and grew suspicious that something wasn’t kosher.
Prosecutors say that Hansen had created a number of entities, such as Americans Helping America, to sell memberships in what he called a “Migration Program,” through which the adoptions would be arranged. At the beginning, memberships were sold for an annual fee of $150, but that cost gradually grew as high as $10,000.
Many of Hansen’s victims were over the age of 50 and a substantial number hailed from Pacific island nations like Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand, prosecutors said.
In all, prosecutors say he duped over 500 people and collected over $1 million in fees.
After an 11-day trial, a federal jury found Hansen guilty of 12 counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and two counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration for private financial gain. He faces up to 20 years in prison.