Who doesn’t like to hear a good story about how a couple met? Some people meet by chance or were set up on a blind date. Others began their march down the aisle at work, school, social functions and church or through online dating. The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal follows a story about one man, who wanted to assist another man with marrying a Lewiston resident in order to become a permanent U.S. resident. According to the article, the marriage of convenience began in a local grocery store parking lot. (How romantic! Perhaps they bumped into each other while returning their shopping carts.)
The story reports that one man, who was a conditional legal permanent resident of the United States and a Ugandan citizen, introduced another Ugandan man, who was in America illegally, to a Lewiston woman. The woman agreed to marry the man for $900, and the matchmaker drove the happy couple to a local notary public where they tied the knot. (Would you marry someone you didn’t know for $900? Sounds pretty risky to me.) In exchange for the money, the woman signed a petition for an alien relative following the wedding and eventually participated in an interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), where she lied about living with the foreigner.
Needless to say, it wasn’t long before authorities caught up with the happy (or not so happy) couple. The groom’s application for citizenship was rejected, and he got a one way ticket back to Uganda for his honeymoon. The bride, who was compensated for her part in the sham marriage, is required to serve one year of probation. The mastermind matchmaker ended up with four months in prison, plus four months of home confinement and one year of supervised release for marriage fraud conspiracy.
Marriage provides a quick path to U.S. citizenship and a popular avenue for marriage fraud. Because of this, federal law punishes offenders with severe penalties for sham marriages. Congratulations to the USCIS for catching this unlucky couple. Perhaps the next time these two individuals contemplate the idea of marriage, they’ll follow through with commitment for all the right reasons.