Marriage Fraud Scheme: Operation Knot So Fast
When two individuals marry to circumvent U.S. immigration laws, this is considered a fake or sham marriage. For a marriage to valid under the law, even though a couple may have gone through a marriage ceremony and received the proper government stamps on their marriage certificate, this may not be enough to constitute a “real marriage.” The couple has to intend to live in a real marriage relationship following the marriage ceremony. If a couple does not intend to establish a life together, but just married so one partner could obtain a U.S. lawful permanent residence – a green card – this marriage is a sham.
Thirteen Central Florida residents have been indicted in a marriage fraud scheme that authorities say was used to help illegal immigrants get around immigration laws and gain U.S. citizenship. The Department of Justice caught suspects from not only Florida, but from Louisiana, New York and Colorado in Operation Knot So Fast.
According to Department of Justice authorities, Bethania Deschamps, 49, of New York, recruited American citizens to marry immigrants in order for the illegal immigrants to fraudulently become legal U.S. residents. Deschamps would receive a recruiting fee once the American citizen and the immigrant were married. These immigrants also paid a fee to Ender Rodriguez, who had spent time in prison in 2008 for conducting a similar scheme. Rodriguez used marriage petitions to prepare and file fraudulent documents on behalf of the immigrants. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit immigration benefit fraud. The 21 people charged in Operation Knot so Fast, could face up to five years in prison if convicted of marriage fraud.
U.S. Immigration officials have become quite adept at discovering fraud by examining what looks like insignificant details of people’s lives. Officials have learned to cross-check dates and facts within the application forms and between the forms and people’s testimony. Those who enter into fraudulent marriages often trip themselves up just trying to get through the standard process, and Immigration officials catch a lot of people who thought that a fake marriage was going to be easier than it really is. Both partners in a sham marriage face possible criminal prosecution for their fraud.