Four deny marriage conspiracy
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Four people were arraigned in U.S. District Court yesterday for allegedly taking part in a bogus marriage scheme to allow a local high school teacher's lover to remain in Hawai'i.
Bob Loren, 64; Hang Duan, 20; Julia Bivit-Padello, 43; and Shara Padello, 21; all pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.
According to an affidavit filed by U.S. attorneys, Loren met Duan while teaching English in China and the two began a romantic relationship. Duan, a resident of China, was granted 90-day business visas that allowed him to stay here temporarily but did not make him eligible to become a permanent resident or a green-card holder.
The affidavit said Loren asked Bivit-Padello, who operates a barbershop in Wai'anae, whether she knew anyone who could marry Duan so he could become eligible for a green card and attend school full time. Bivit-Padello, according to the affidavit, suggested Padello, her daughter.
Duan and Padello were married in August 2005, about two months after he first arrived.
Greg Knudsen, a Department of Education spokesman, said Loren, a Radford High foreign-language teacher, was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday.
Loren was released from custody on an unsecured $50,000 bond. The other three were released on $25,000 bonds.
A stipulation of Loren's bail is that he refrain from contact with anyone 18 or younger. Loren's court-appointed attorney, Jerry Wilson, initially protested the condition but dropped the matter following a closed-door meeting.
But Wilson told reporters after the arraignment that the condition continues to be a concern.
"It's my experience that homosexuals in not only the state of Hawai'i but all over the world have been discriminated against," Wilson said. "And I haven't seen any specific allegations that (Loren's) a danger to 18-year-olds."
Bill Woods, executive director for the Gay and Lesbian Education and Advocacy Foundation and a leader in the local gay community for 35 years, said same-sex couples in which one partner is a foreign national often resort to dodging U.S. immigration law.
"It's a really sad situation that people who have relationships — if this was the sole reason for this illegal action — have to go through techniques like this to violate the law in order to have their family together," Woods said.
In addition to consequences tied to breaking the law, Woods said, marriage scams can open up couples to blackmail, inheritance entanglements and other issues. "They have no idea what they're getting into when they get into these kinds of things," he said. "I've seen it destroy many, many lives."
Maile Hirota, former chairwoman of the Hawai'i chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has been approached by gay couples seeking to extend the stay of a partner who cannot obtain a visa.
"We try to look for other family relationships like a parent or, in some cases a child, a brother or a sister," Hirota said. "Some people, if they have enough of an education, can get a work visa, or hope someday that the U.S. immigration laws will change."
She added: "I think it's a shame because I've met a lot of couples where two people clearly love each other."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Hino, who is prosecuting the case before Magistrate Kevin Chang, declined comment as he left the courthouse yesterday.
According to the affidavit, a wedding was held at a Crosspointe townhouse complex recreational facility, followed by a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The couple had also shopped for rings and clothes for the event.
The affidavit said Duan and Padello took part in a "post-marital" agreement that called for Padello to receive $1,000 for marrying Duan and another $5,000 after he received his green card.
The affidavit also said Duan and Padello told agents in January that they never planned to live as husband and wife.
Trial is scheduled for July 18.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at email@example.com.