Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Feds Bust Massive Marriage Fraud Ring; More Than 400 Sham Marriages Arranged; Feds Ring Alleged Conspirators in ‘sham wedding’ Scam, 11 Indicted, and related stories

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Feds bust massive marriage fraud ring; more than 400 sham marriages arranged
Federal prosecutors say they have busted a massive immigrant marriage fraud ring that made more than $8 million over the past five years by arranging bogus unions and filing at least 400 fake applications with Homeland Security.
When the sham marriages didn’t work out because the U.S. citizens got cold feet, the fraudsters would fabricate fake domestic violence cases against them and then apply for green cards, signaling permanent legal status, under a law meant to protect battered spouses, according to court documents.
Eleven people were indicted in the fraud, which prosecutors said provided full service to “clients” by recruiting “spouses” — often homeless people — and coaching both people on how to appear to be a couple, arranging fake wedding ceremonies and submitting bogus packages to Homeland Security.
“It is the utmost honor and privilege to become an American citizen, and the individuals we arrested today have allegedly made a sham of that process,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office.
The ring was based in southern California and the man whom the feds say was the ringleader, Marcialito Biol Benitez, is known as “Mars.” He worked with “brokers” who scoured for American citizens willing to be paid to be paired in sham marriages.
In one 15-month period, the feds say four brokers managed to recruit at least 193 people for sham marriages, including Devon Hammer, who is accused of netting 94 just by himself.
Clients would pay between $20,000 and $30,000 for the full-service sham marriage packages. The brokers would get about $2,000 per U.S. citizen recruit, the citizens got a cut, and the rest went to Mr. Benitez and his assistants, four of whom are included in the indictment. --->READ MORE HERE
Federal court filing
Feds ring alleged conspirators in ‘sham wedding’ scam, 11 indicted:
The only wedding present clients of a Los Angeles-based wedding “agency” wanted were fresh green cards.
Eleven alleged conspirators were indicted Thursday on charges related to marriage and immigration fraud for running what the feds described as a business dedicated to arranging “sham marriages” to fraudulently apply for permanent residency in the United States. Eight of those people were arrested in LA.
At least one client was a Massachusetts resident, though Joseph Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, added at a press conference Thursday afternoon that investigators have found at least three Bay State residents embroiled in the alleged scam.
The Boston FBI uncovered the alleged scheme when initial evidence allegedly came up while agents were investigating another, undisclosed case.
“These weddings were not love stories,” said Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins. “This isn’t the movie ‘The Proposal’ … these individuals committed multiple frauds on the United States government with the explicit goal of circumventing immigration laws.”
Rollins described the business allegedly run by Marcialito Biol Benitez, 48, a Philippine national living in LA who went by “Mars” — at Career Ad Management LLC — as a “a one-stop-shop” for immigration fraud.
The agency is alleged to have recruited U.S. citizens — often homeless women, Bonavolonta added — to marry foreign nationals seeking a quick route to permanent residency and possible future citizenship, sometimes on the day after they first meet. --->READ MORE HERE
Follow links below to related stories:

Unholy matrimony: Suspects arranged 400 ‘sham marriages’ for green cards: feds

Eleven charged with arranging 400 sham marriages for green cards

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