Destination weddings are all the rage. After all, why not attend a wedding in a beautiful location and stay a little longer for some extra rest and relaxation? According to an article published by WBTW.com, it looks like some tourists are doing the opposite. After flocking to Myrtle Beach, SC for a vacation, some foreign visitors have extended their stay indefinitely by marrying American citizens in exchange for money and a green card. (Instead of planning a destination wedding, they plan to commit wedding fraud.)
The story states that the southern beach is perfect for marriage fraud because it is a popular vacation destination and the community is transient. An anonymous Homeland Security Investigations agent stated that he makes weekly visits to the Atlantic Coast beach town to investigate tips from friends of American citizens who marry a spouse for money. It is the agent’s job to determine if the marriage is on the up-and-up or fake.
One marriage fraud busting operation revealed 28 people involved in a scam that was reportedly operated by a husband and wife team from Bulgaria. According to the article, the couple was responsible for recruiting and paying citizens to enter into marriage with other Bulgarians. (Supposedly, the leaders sold the idea that fraudulent matrimony is an easy transaction that would allow both people to go on with their separate lives with little interruption. Um, no.)
One woman allegedly received $10,000 for marrying a foreign friend. Unfortunately, the union received a lot of attention from a Homeland Security investigator and an Immigration officer. (If caught in a fake marriage, both the foreigner and the American citizen are held responsible for their crime.) If found guilty of committing marriage fraud, the couple can get each get five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Some are reluctant to consider marriage fraud a crime because the transaction is consensual and there are no victims. However, the real victim is the United States. (All it takes is one wrong person entering the country and gaining citizenship through a fake marriage to impact national security.) The government takes this type of crime seriously and the punishment includes prison as the final destination. (That’s definitely not the kind of vacation fraudsters thought they would get.)
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