Officials: 11 charged with arranging more than 400 sham marriages – Boston News, Weather, Sports

BOSTON (WHDH) – Eleven people are facing charges for arraigning more than 400 sham marriages for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws.

According to the indictment, Marcialito Biol Benitez ran what he and others referred to as an “agency” that arranged hundreds of sham marriages between foreign national “clients” and United States citizens between October 2016 and March 2022, according to US Attonrey Rachael Rollins. One of those foreign national clients resided in Massachusetts.

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

Benitez allegedly operated the agency out of offices in Los Angeles, where he employed his co-conspirators as staff.

It is alleged that Nino Reyes Valmeo, Engilbert Ulan, Harold Poquita and Juanita Pacson assisted with arranging marriages as well as submitting fraudulent marriage and immigration documents for the agency’s clients, including false tax returns. 

Devon Hammer, Tamia Duckett, Karina Santos and Casey Loya allegedly served as “brokers,” who recruited U.S. citizens willing to marry the agency’s clients in exchange for an upfront fee and monthly payments from the client spouses following the marriage – to keep the U.S. citizen responsive and cooperative until the client spouse obtained lawful permanent resident status. 

It is also alleged that Peterson Souza and Felipe Capindo David referred prospective foreign national clients to the agency for a commission, typically around $2,000 per referral.

After pairing foreign national clients with citizen spouses, Benitez and his staff allegedly staged fake wedding ceremonies at 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 prop wedding decorations for later submission with immigration petitions.

Benitez and his staff then allegedly submitted fraudulent, marriage-based immigration petitions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency responsible for granting lawful permanent resident status. It is alleged that Benitez and his staff coached clients and spouses through interviews with USCIS and advised clients about maintaining the appearance of legitimate marriage to their spouses.

It is further alleged that Benitez and his co-conspirators would assist certain clients – typically those whose spouses became unresponsive or uncooperative – with obtaining green cards under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by claiming the undocumented clients had been abused by alleged American spouses.

Eight of the defendants, including Benitez, were arrested today in California. They will appear in federal court in the Central District of California today and appear in Boston at a later date.

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