Who doesn’t like to hear a good love story? It’s always interesting to find out how a couple met – whether through a personal introduction, online dating or even by chance. Love is risky business, and it can be difficult to make a connection with the right person, especially if you are looking for a quick way to get a Green Card. One senior citizen from Texas is headed to prison for using a good old fashioned dating technique – matchmaking – to arrange sham marriages for profit. (For a small fee she can make any match work.)
Americans are in high demand for marriage by immigrants who seek U.S. immigration or citizenship benefits. Marriage fraud can occur when a U.S. citizen is persuaded by someone who wants to gain citizenship, but has no intention of honoring the commitment. Also, U.S. citizens may wish to help someone obtain citizenship by agreeing to a marriage of convenience. It may seem like a great way to obtain legal citizenship, but if caught, the penalties for marriage fraud can be harsh.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas, the 77-year old matchmaker arranged more than 30 sham marriages between foreign nationals and U.S. citizens for profit. (Now, that is capitalism!) The elderly woman, who paid U.S. citizens to participate in the scam, was sentenced to a two-year prison term followed by two years of supervised release for conspiring to commit marriage fraud. The woman also employed recruiters to help her find suitable mates to enter into the fraudulent marriages. One recruiter was convicted and ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
Not only did the elderly woman arrange marriages between couples who did not intend to establish a life together, but she also provided consulting services that prepared the couple for their immigration interview. Couples were instructed to obtain a common law marriage certificate and take pictures together to show to the immigration officer.
In the past, matchmaking was used by people in certain cultures or religions who wanted to find the perfect mate for their children. Today, the practice of matchmaking adds a more personal touch and is a mainstream way for busy professionals to meet a prospective spouse. Unfortunately, matchmaking can result in marriage fraud when immigrants and U.S. citizenship is involved. Marrying an American is the quickest path to gaining U.S. citizen benefits, but in this case, the matchmaker is not headed for “happily ever after.” Perhaps she’ll get a prison dating service up and running while she is serving time.