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Dragging the Old Ball & Chain

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Federal sting nets 83 arrests in suspected marriage-for-citizenship scam

A federal sting in Florida of four companies accused of arranging fraudulent marriages for U.S. citizenship, complete with faux wedding photos of brides in gowns and elaborate fake cakes, has netted more than 80 arrests, authorities said Friday.

Illegal immigrants, U.S. citizens and company officials were among the 83 people arrested. The business operators were charged with establishing a commercial enterprise to evade federal immigration laws, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The sham couples, including the U.S. citizens, face charges of knowingly entering into a fraudulent marriage to evade immigration laws, also a felony carrying a maximum five-year penalty.

Robert Weber, the agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Tampa, characterized the fraudulent marriages as a threat to national security. He noted the illegal aliens to whom the Americans in the scheme falsely were married came from 11 different countries, and several had criminal records. Weber also warned the criminal community that ICE was stepping up enforcement against marriage fraud. The agency investigated more than 5,200 such cases in 2006 and the first half of 2007, up from about 2,300 in 2004.

'The bottom line,' said Weber: 'If you commit marriage fraud, whether as a United States citizen or one illegally in the country, you will become an ICE investigative target and be held accountable for such criminal activity.'

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That story puts a new spin on the phrase "shotgun wedding,' doesn't it?

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Here's a link to the AP article on which this entry is based. As they say, read the whole thing. It's worth a bit of time.


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Comments (4)

This is a big thing in Flor... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

This is a big thing in Florida. My son and daughter are both single. In the last year both have been approached and offered money to marry someone to facilitate their path to citizenship. During the 14 years I was single between my first husband and current one I was asked twice if I would participate in the same sort of proposal (no pun intended).

In my view, the reasons peo... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

In my view, the reasons people get married and what they do after they are married are their own business. The government created this problem. The government should change the rules to fix it. Going after the couples is the wrong approach. It smacks of authoritarian overreach.

Hypothetical: Beautiful young Russian chick pursues middle-aged balding man for romance. He can't believe his good fortune and asks her to marry him. She subsequently dumps the guy, since citizenship was the only thing she was really after. Should the man be able to criminally prosecute the woman?

Same thing for woman who follows military overseas guy back to the states.

I say caveat emptor.

Actually, I think when it's... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Actually, I think when it's obvious that both parties entered into the arrangement for the purpose of getting one of them citizenship or to circumvent a soon-to-expire visa *and* one party is paid money for it, it becomes an issue. It's immigration fraud, plain and simple. I understand your concern though, Jeff. Cases have to be carefully vetted. (I would cite the case of Moussaoui's convenient marriage as an example of why it's an important issue)

The cases you bring up do indeed happen all the time, but they are almost always due to one partner actually being of good intention and caring for the other, who is trying to scam the system.

It's my understanding that, in the past, citizens who have clearly entered into these contracts are rarely charged with anything. What they ought to do is hit them with income tax evasion for not paying taxes on the monetary gains. Most of the time, people who are targetted for these scams are strapped for cash for various reasons and are, frankly, exploited. So they're breaking the law and being victims at the same time.

But you said: "The government should change the rules to fix it." What rules would you change for these "marriage for citizenship" scams?

They really need to get rea... (Below threshold)
Mark H:

They really need to get ready to spend some quality time vacationing at Federal Expense. There is a good book about life in Federal Prison that was written by a lawyer who got sent there. Look at FedsGotMe.Com (yes, it is a real website) and there is a lot of useful information there......




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