ABOVE: Helaman Hansen in an interview with KCRA | Credit: KCRA Sacramento
ELK GROVE — An Elk Grove man made his first court appearance on Friday, February 12, 2016 after being arrested the day before for allegedly cheating undocumented immigrants who believed he could help them become legal citizens. He entered a plea of not guilty.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner told the public during a news conference that Helaman Hansen, 63,—who had been indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy and 12 counts of fraud—had targeted adult immigrants throughout California and other states. Hansen told his victims that they could become legal if they were adopted by an American citizen. He and his accomplices charged each client $150 in annual fees. As his scheme gained momentum, this fee grew to $10,000.
“Adoption of adults is not a pathway to U.S. citizenship,” Wagner emphasized. This is the first and only such prosecution in the country.
Approximately 500 victims paid more than $500,000 to Hansen—who operated a nonprofit organization called Americans Helping Americans—from October 2013 until January 2016, according to a court document. And although some victims completed adoptions, not one of the victims were able to become American citizens, the indictment says.
On his website, Hansen describes himself as “driven by a deep relationship with God, love for the disenfranchised and undocumented international citizens of the world.” He also reports to having several degrees, including a PhD and refers to himself as “doctor.”
According to its website, Americans Helping Americans aims to “aid, direct, educate and assist the (immigrant) communities with available resources and information in their daily struggle in this great country of ours.”
On December 22, 2015 federal agents searched Hansen’s residence in Elk Grove on 8400 block of Banyon Tree Court and seized materials that included “files relating to victims of the scheme that contain identity information, payment records, adult adoption petitions, delayed birth certificates, evidence of mail and wire transactions, and other evidence of the operation,” according to an 82-page affidavit.
Hansen is scheduled to return to court seeking bail on Wednesday, February 17. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.