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Mastermind of Huge Marriage Fraud Operation That Sought Green Cards for 600 Immigrants Sentenced to Prison

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Four people have been sentenced after authorities dismantled a fake marriage operation that fraudulently sought green cards for at least 600 immigrants.

The mastermind of the scheme, Marcialito Biol Benitez, was sentenced Thursday to 22 months in prison and three years of supervised release, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

Benitez, 50, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and immigration document fraud in September.

Also Thursday, Juanita Pacson, 48, was sentenced to two years of supervised release with the first four months on home detention. Pacson also pleaded guilty in Septemeber.

On March 6, Engilbert Ulan, 43, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release after being convicted by a federal jury in November.

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In January, Nino Valmeo, 47, was sentenced to three years of supervised release with the first six months on home confinement after pleading guilty in August.

Benitez operated an agency out of Los Angeles that arranged sham marriages between immigrants and U.S. citizens who were paid to play the part. The agency operated from 2016 to 2022.

Once a wedding ceremony was staged, Benitez and his co-conspirators filed documents to allow immigrants to remain in the country as lawful permanent residents.

The agency instructed the fake couples on how to answer questions during interviews with immigration authorities and how to give the appearance of a real marriage.

Should Benitez have received a longer prison sentence?

The fake couples were allowed to use the addresses of the conspirators in documentation to make it look like they were living together.

Each sham marriage brought in between $20,000 and $35,000 in cash.

In some cases, the conspirators took advantage of the Violence Against Women Act, which allows “non-citizen victims of spousal abuse to apply for lawful permanent resident status without their spouses’ involvement,” the release said.

The agency would submit “fraudulent applications on clients’ behalf for temporary restraining orders against spouses based on fabricated domestic violence allegations.”

Benitez and 10 co-conspirators were arrested and charged in April 2022.

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At the time, the FBI said the operation had brought in “millions of dollars in profits,” according to a Justice Department news release.

“Marriage fraud is a serious crime that threatens the integrity of our nation’s lawful immigration system,” U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins said when the indictment was issued.

“These defendants’ alleged exploitation of this system for profit is an affront to our nation’s tradition of welcoming immigrants and prospective citizens. Their alleged fraudulent behavior makes things harder for the vast majority of immigrants who follow the law and respect our immigration system.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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