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Friday 15 January 2016 | Published in Regional

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SACRAMENTO – A Tongan organisation in the United States is being investigated by FBI alleging that an adult adoption programme it claims will allow adults to become US citizens was a “scam”.

No arrest has been made although FBI has seized computers and documents from the company’s office in Sacramento, California.

The company claimed it has agents in the South Pacific including Tonga and Fiji.

Hilamani Hansen, also known as Helamani, and his wife Viola Hansen, also known as Sela Hansen, are the couple at the centre of the FBI investigation.

Bank accounts affiliated with Hansen, his wife and employees of his companies showed hundreds of deposits and hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited and withdrawn by various names, it has been reported.

Sacramento County says it will not take any more adoptions sponsored by Hansen’s America Helping America programme.

It said it has found some applications used false addresses.

Clients who used the company’s services were told they had a quick path to citizenship if they pay $5000 to $10,000 a person.

“These people said they were told they could become citizens by being adopted by another adult all through the help of Dr Helaman Hansen and his company Americans Helping America Chamber of Commerce (AHA)”.

A US immigration expert told KCR News it was a “scam”.

Hansen told US media that neither he nor his companies have been charged nor convicted of anything.

A 75-page FBI affidavit detailing the almost year-long investigation states that the FBI is looking for evidence of possible mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud undocumented immigrants.

While talking to KCR News about the FBI investigation, Hansen said: “Why hasn’t the FBI arrested us here? I am waiting for that day.”

Since the Hansen investigation was made public, Tongans who claimed they fell victims to the hands of their own people came forward and claimed they spent thousands of dollars through Hansen’s AHA programme after they were promised to get US citizenship but to no avail.

One person said she spent about US$5000 to get herself adopted by a citizen couple and it was approved – but it was stopped after she could not afford to pay further costs the company demanded so they could continue to work on her application to get her citizenship.

Some in the Tongan-Sacramento community said Tongans had been repeatedly warned to be careful about the services provided by the AHA saying they were wasting their money on it – but most ignored the warning.

Immigration attorneys said the claim that adult adoption leads to citizenship is patently wrong, the Washington Post reported.

The company claims to have people working all across the country including Nevada, Hawai‘i, Utah, Oregon, Washington, New York, Minnesota and California.

They also claim to have representatives recruiting people for the adult adoption programme in Tonga and in Fiji, it said.

“Adult adoption is legal and used for things like estate planning and adult care, but according to immigration attorneys it has no bearing on immigration status.

One of those people who stood up to help protect the community from Hansen was Reverend Malakai Lose.

“Reverend Malakai Lose has warned our people many years ago but most of them said he did not love them and did not want them to stay in here in the United States legally,” a Tongan community member in Sacramento said. - Kaniva Pacific