Convicted kidnapper, child molester sentenced for naturalization fraud in Craven County

New Bern

RALEIGH, N.C. – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced on Wednesday in federal court that Zaw Lin Lay, 43, a naturalized citizen of the United States, born in Burma and residing in Craven County, was sentenced by United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle to 7 months imprisonment followed by 1 year of supervised release following a guilty plea to naturalization fraud.

In addition, Lay was criminally denaturalized as a United States citizen.

According to court records, on February 17, 2017, Lay fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship by making a false statement under oath regarding his naturalization application.  In response to the question “Have you ever committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit, a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?” he answered “No.”

On July 17, 2018, in the Superior Court of North Carolina in Craven County, Lay was convicted of six counts of indecent liberties with a child and one count of kidnapping.  Lay received an aggravated sentence of more than 16 years because the offenses were committed over an extended period between October 1, 2016, and February 17, 2017, while Lay was in a position of trust with the victim.  Lay was not arrested until after he was naturalized, thus immigration officials were unaware of his crimes. 

“Lying is never a good thing but lying on an official document about not committing horrific, when you know you did, crimes is a surefire way to get yourself in serious trouble. This defendant is now seeing the consequences of his actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North Carolina and South Carolina. “Whether it is protecting the integrity of our immigration system or finding and arresting predators, HSI adeptly handles multiple missions to protect this nation.”

G. Norman Acker, III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement. Agents with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations and Homeland Security Investigations, assigned to the Document Benefit Fraud Task Force, investigated the case as part of Operation False Haven, an ongoing initiative purpose-built to aggressively identify and prosecute child molesters and other egregious felons who fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship.

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