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Fake Marriage for Green Card Ring Members Sentenced to Prison in Boston

Fake Marriage for Green Card Ring Members Sentenced to Prison in Boston

Boston, MA: Four individuals were convicted for orchestrating a ‘large-scale’ marriage fraud scheme to obtain green cards for hundreds of people.

Four individuals received sentences in federal court in Boston for their involvement in operating a significant marriage fraud operation that facilitated numerous fake marriages to evade immigration regulations, as announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday.

Prosecutors said that this involved acquiring green cards under the Violence Against Women Act by falsely claiming that the undocumented clients had been abused by American spouses, among other things.

A foreign national living in Massachusetts was among the agency’s clients, according to a statement from Acting U.S. Attorney Josh Levy’s Office. An organization orchestrated fake marriages and filed false immigration paperwork for over 600 individuals from October 2016 to March 2022.

All four individuals previously found guilty of the offense are citizens of the Philippines and live in Los Angeles. In April 2022, they were arrested and charged, along with seven others, for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and immigration document fraud, according to the statement.

Marciolito Biol Benitez, also known as “Mars,” 50, received a 22-month prison sentence and three years of supervised release from U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper on March 7. Benitez admitted his guilt in September 2023.

Juanita Pacson, 48, received a sentence from Casper on March 7 for two years of supervised release, with the first four months on home detention. This came after she pleaded guilty in September 2023.

Engilbert Ulan, 43, received a 14-month prison sentence and three years of supervised release from Casper on March 6. Ulan received a federal jury conviction in November 2023.

On Jan. 11, Nino Valmeo, 47, received a three-year supervised release sentence from Casper, with the first six months to be served on home confinement after pleading guilty in August 2023.

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Benitez, along with the others found guilty, operated a “agency” that facilitated numerous fraudulent marriages between foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, as per the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the agency submitted fraudulent petitions, applications, and other documents to support fake marriages and help clients obtain legal immigration status for a fee ranging from $20,000 to $35,000 in cash.

Benitez operated the agency from physical offices in Los Angeles, where he hired Ulan and Valmeo as employees, according to prosecutors. Ulan and Valmeo assisted in coordinating marriages and preparing fake marriage and immigration paperwork for the agency’s customers.

Benitez depended on multiple co-conspirators to enlist U.S. citizens to marry the agency’s clients for payment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement.

“After matching foreign national clients with citizen spouses, Benitez’s agency organized simulated wedding ceremonies at chapels, parks, and other locations, conducted by hired online officiants,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement.

Pacson, a friend who worked at one of the chapels, helped with fake wedding ceremonies and marriage documents, according to prosecutors. According to prosecutors, the agency would photograph undocumented clients and citizen spouses in front of prop wedding decorations for future submission with immigration petitions.

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According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Benitez’s agency submitted fraudulent, marriage-based immigration petitions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency in charge of granting lawful permanent resident status. Benitez, Ulan, Pacson, and other individuals provided guidance to clients on how to establish and uphold the facade of a genuine marriage with their partners.

“Ulan conducted practice interviews with the agency’s clients and their fake spouses for the purpose of preparing couples to pass required interviews with immigration authorities,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement mentioned. He trained the fake couples to give identical made-up responses to inquiries in green card interviews and hide the deceitful aspect of the marriages.

Benitez, Ulan, Valmeo, and Pacson helped clients create fake documents to support their marriages, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Ulan, Valmeo, and Pacson rented out their apartment addresses to clients residing outside of Los Angeles. This allowed the clients to use these addresses on green card applications and other documents, giving the impression to immigration authorities that they were residing with their fake spouses in the Los Angeles region.

Ulan and Valmeo were also given cash commissions for recommending new clients to the agency, as per prosecutors.

Benitez’s agency helps specific clients, usually those whose spouses are unresponsive, to obtain green cards under the Violence Against Women Act by alleging abuse by their American spouses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Benitez, Valmeo, and others submitted fraudulent applications on clients’ behalf for temporary restraining orders against spouses based on fabricated domestic violence allegations,” the statement revealed. Benitez’s agency plans to submit the restraining order documentation and immigration petitions to USCIS to utilize VAWA provisions that allow non-citizen victims of spousal abuse to apply for lawful permanent resident status without their spouses’ involvement.

Officials reported that several other individuals involved in the scheme had already been sentenced by Casper.

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Felipe David, who directed clients to the agency for help with Violence Against Women Act-based applications, received a three-year supervised release.

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