It was not immediately clear whether the suspects had lawyers. None of them were mentioned in court records for them.
The 11 defendants were identified in the affidavit as Marcialito Biol Benitez, 48; Engilbert Oelan, 39; Nino Reyes Valmeo, 45; Harold Poquita, 30; Juanita Pacson, 45; Felipe Capindo David, 49; Peterson Souza, 34; Devon Hamer, 26; Tamia Duckett, 25; Karina Santos, 24; and Casey Loya, 33.
Using a physical agency in Los Angeles that Mr. Benitez set up as a cover, the group identified hundreds of foreigners seeking U.S. citizenship and legal status through green cards, prosecutors said.
Mr. Benitez provided customers with payment schedules that included detailed prepayments for wedding ceremonies and the filing of immigration documents, according to the affidavit. To maintain the appearance that the marriages were legitimate, the clients were required to make monthly payments to spouses recruited by the defendants until the clients obtained full, legal permanent resident status, the affidavit said.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, a special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Boston, accused the defendants of having “made a sham” of the U.S. citizenship process.
“This case should serve as a warning to others that the FBI and our law enforcement partners are united in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that attempt to circumvent our laws through fraudulent means,” said Mr. Bonavolonta in the statement. Thursday.
Each of the defendants was charged with one charge of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and fraud involving immigration documents. If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of $250,000.