The Orlando Sentinel reports that three people were sentenced to federal prison for marriage fraud. The sentencing was part of an operation conducted by Brevard County that led to a minimum of five convictions.
Marriage Fraud Investigation
One of the three individuals involved was a 31-year-old man from Cocoa, Florida who was sentenced to two years in prison for his participation in this scheme. The other two were non- U.S. citizens who were sentenced to time-served and released. Agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worked closely with the Brevard County Clerk of the Court to investigate an increase of undocumented immigrants from former Soviet Union countries marrying U.S. citizens within Brevard County during the fall of 2015.
The 31-year-old American man married a foreigner for payment. She tried to avoid prosecution and filed a lengthy petition, falsely claiming to be a battered wife. She eventually confessed that this was untrue. Another foreigner who was also convicted had tried to apply for legal immigration status after marrying an American citizen who had been recruited in the marriage fraud scheme.
In 2016 the investigation led to the arrest of a 40-year-old Russian man and a 28-year-old Cocoa woman. The Russian admitted to introducing approximately 100 people to each other over the span of a year and a half so that could enter into fraudulent marriages for immigration benefits. The man confessed he received between $1,000.00 and $2,000.00 for each arranged marriage. The U.S. citizens involved in these sham nuptials were allegedly paid between $10,000.00 and $20,000.00 each.
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The federal indictment charged seven individuals for their involvement in this marriage fraud scheme operating out of Brevard County during of 2015 and 2016 was unsealed, with a total of nine arrests. The investigation involved included the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Cocoa Beach Office of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the Brevard County Court system.
The individuals arrested and charged range from the ages of 24 to 31, and the accused could potentially be sentenced to between 5 and 10 years of prison time.
The Russian admitted to introducing approximately 100 people to each other over the span of a year and a half so that could enter into fraudulent marriages for immigration benefits.
It is important to understand that a person does not automatically become an American citizen after marrying a U.S. citizen. Instead, the foreign spouse simply becomes eligible to apply to become a Legal Permanent Resident. In fact, the immigration application consists of a legal petition requiring tangible evidence of the marriage relationship in addition to proper documentation and filing fees. If the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service approve the foreign spouse’s application, he or she becomes a Legal Permanent Resident and receives a green card. In most cases, the foreign spouse may apply for full U.S. citizenship after three years of Legal Permanent Residency.
If you have any questions about marriage and citizenship status or have any other immigration question, contact the Central Florida family law and immigration attorneys at Bogin, Munns & Munns. With over a dozen locations, including offices in Brevard County, our attorneys can guide you through this complex process. Contact us today to schedule your immigration consultation.
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