With This Ring, I Defraud Thee

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10313003 - image of a persons hand holding a passport

One of the easiest ways for an immigrant to become a lawful resident of the United States is to marry an American citizen. While there are many immigrants who find their true love in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” and marry for life, there are others who just want a quick ticket to the awesome benefits that our democratic society has to offer. That is the case for several fraudsters in Brevard County, Florida, who committed immigration fraud through fake marriages.

 Today’s fraud article states that Brevard County officials noticed a surge in marriage between the Florida county’s residents and citizens from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other former Soviet countries in 2015. (Perhaps they were just looking for a warmer climate than the Soviet motherland.)

A 40-year-old Russian man masterminded the fraud scheme that resulted in at least 100 fake marriages over 18 months. He employed a 31-year-old American to help him recruit other Americans to enter into illegal marriages. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators discovered that the Americans who consented to marriage with aliens received up to $20,000 for tying the proverbial knot.)

The 31-year-old man helped recruit at least 20 American citizens for sham marriages. He even convinced his ex-wife to participate. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison for committing marriage fraud. That sentence will run concurrently with another two-year sentence for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. (Technically, you could say he helped facilitate shot gun weddings. But, I digress.) His ex-wife received a sentence of four months for marriage fraud for her sham marriage to a 26-year-old man from Uzbekistan.

The 31-year-old male recruiter also entered into a fraudulent marriage with a 28-year-old Russian woman. She tried to avoid prosecution by claiming to be a battered spouse of the recruiter. She later recanted her story, admitting she had not entered into the marriage in good faith, never lived with him as his wife, nor had been battered by him. She received a five-month prison sentence for committing immigration fraud. A 24-year-old man from Azerbaijan was sentenced to time served for his participation in the scam.

The 40-year-old man who masterminded the scam and an American woman, 28 from Cocoa, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the immigration fraud scheme. The man received 15 months in prison for inducing an alien to reside in the United States, while the woman from Florida received four months behind bars.

Immigrants who wish to become United States citizens must take an oath of allegiance. In that oath, candidates for citizenship swear to “…support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America when required by law.” Today’s Floridian fraudsters disobeyed the country’s laws and undermined the integrity of America’s legal immigration system, all for personal financial gain. (Suffice to say, there were no tears of joy when these couples took their wedding vows to defraud, just tears of remorse when they were caught for immigration fraud.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Marriage fraud scam participants sentenced,” posted on FloridaToday.com on February 22, 2018.

A federal judge handed down sentences for three people who ran a marriage scam ring in Brevard County to facilitate immigration benefits for foreigners, the Department of Justice said Thursday.

Investigators with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Americans were paid — in some case up to $20,000 — to enter into sham marriages with foreign nationals so that the foreigners could apply to become U.S. residents.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.