Lancashire sham marriage gang sentenced

Trang Thi Thuy Luu, known as Louise, was the "spider at the centre of a web" that arranged sham marriages Photo: Lancashire Police

Two people have been jailed for taking part in sham marriages arranged by a Vietnamese nail bar owner.

Trang Thi Thuy Luu, known as Louise, was the "spider at the centre of a web" but has vanished after going on the run when police swooped.

The 24-year-old used her connections as owner of three salons in Preston, Chorley and Blackburn to entice locals into sham weddings between 2008 and 2010.

It enabled her friends and family to successfully apply to the Home Office for visas to remain in Britain after three sham marriage ceremonies.

Amanda Nolan, 28, of Windsor Road, Blackburn; Jason Proctor, 40, of Princes Street, Blackburn; Kevin Donnelly, 34, of Thwaites Road, Oswaldtwistle; Denny Wallace, 22, of Preston New Road, Blackburn, and Gemma Nelson, 28, of Whalley New Road, Blackburn, all appeared at Preston Crown Court today for sentence.

Proctor and Donnelly were both jailed for 10 months; Nolan was sentenced to 44 weeks imprisonment which was suspended for two years and Nelson and Wallace were both given 36 weeks in jail, suspended for two years.

All five were convicted of committing an act of deception to facilitate non EU nationals to remain or enter the UK.

The gang arranged wedding ceremonies with some exchanging rings and holding wedding breakfasts. They took pictures of the ceremonies and presented them to the Home Office as proof of their relationships.

The Vietnamese woman known as Louise was at the centre of the conspiracy in her role as manager of the Miss Nails parlours. It is suspected she arranged her own sham marriage and then went on make arrangements to facilitate the marriages of friends and relatives.

But the plotters were caught after a sham wedding in October 2010 at Blackburn Registry Office, involving Nolan marrying a man called Tuan Hoang Lu, believed to have worked at Miss Nails.

The next day the "blushing bride" booked a holiday to Mexico for herself and a man named John Doyle, using her £4,000 payment for taking part in the bogus wedding.

But when Nolan and Mr Doyle later fell out police were told how Nolan had been able to pay for the trip.

The police went on to check CCTV footage of the reception venue at Whitehall Country Club in Darwen which showed a number of Chinese guests behaving appropriately for the occasion but saw Nolan and friends under the influence of alcohol and treating the whole occasion as "a joke".

"Louise" was later arrested and bailed - then disappeared without a trace but police were able to uncover other sham marriages.

Donnelly entered a bogus marriage with "Louise" in October 2008 at Blackburn Registry Office, which was witnessed by Nelson and another woman.

Both Donnelly and "Louise" went their separate ways after the ceremony.

He was said to have received £1,500 as payment.

Proctor married Thi Le in October 2010 with the same registrar, with Donnelly as a witness, which enabled Le's student visa to be renewed.

Proctor was paid around £2,000 and Donnelly #500 as a witness.

Nolan's wedding was witnessed by Wallace.

Det Supt Julie Cross, from Lancashire Police, said: "They were paid large sums of month to enter into marriages of convenience, which were a complete sham. They spent a lot of time and money to deceive the authorities, creating the impression that they were genuine marriages."

The nail bars have since been taken over by other Vietnamese nationals but police say enquiries are ongoing to trace a further four people who are believed to be involved in the plot.

These are Trang Thi Thuy Luu, also known as Louise, along with 24-year-old Tuan Hoang Luu, Thi Le Quyen Le, 23, and a 23-year-old man, Dat Van Vu.

Anyone with information about their whereabouts is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.