SoCal defendants charged in marriage fraud case

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Filipino national living in Los Angeles was arrested today on federal charges alleging he ran a large-scale fraudulent marriage scheme that allegedly arranged hundreds of fake marriages used to circumvent privacy laws. immigration.

Marcialito Biol ‘Mars’ Benitez, 48, is charged along with 10 other SoCal residents with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud for allegedly operating an ‘agency’ that arranged hundreds of bogus marriages between nationals foreigners and U.S. citizens, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.

The company then allegedly prepared and submitted false petitions, applications and other documents to substantiate the bogus marriages and obtain the adjustment of clients’ immigration statuses for a fee of between $20,000 and $30,000 in cash, prosecutors say. .

“We believe their alleged scheme violated immigration laws that are in place to protect public safety and created a disadvantage for those seeking to legally obtain their citizenship,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI. . “This case should serve as a warning to others that the FBI and our law enforcement partners are united in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that seek to circumvent our laws through fraudulent means.”

Benitez reportedly ran the agency from physical offices in Los Angeles, where he employed his co-conspirators as staff.

Specifically, some defendants are alleged to have helped arrange marriages as well as submit fraudulent marriage and immigration documents for the agency’s clients, including false tax returns. Other defendants allegedly served as “brokers,” who recruited US citizens willing to marry the agency’s clients in exchange for fees and monthly payments from the client spouses after marriage.

After matching foreign clients with citizen spouses, Benitez and his team allegedly staged fake wedding ceremonies in chapels, parks and other locations, performed by hired online officiants. For many clients, the agency would take photos of undocumented clients and citizen spouses in front of wedding decorations for later submission to immigration applications, prosecutors say.

Benitez and his co-conspirators also allegedly helped some clients – usually those whose spouses became unresponsive or uncooperative – obtain green cards under the Violence Against Women Act by claiming undocumented clients were abused. by alleged U.S. spouses, prosecutors said.

The conspiracy to commit marriage fraud charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, prosecutors noted.

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