In Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, authorities have announced the arrests of 19 people in an alleged phony marriage scheme involving many Africans. Several others are being sought.
They say the three-year investigation uncovered a plan to arrange as many as one thousand fake marriages between illegal aliens and US citizens. Authorities say most of those involved were from Ghana.
Capt. Mary Gavin of the Arlington County Police Department tells VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua how the alleged scheme was discovered.
“The operation started with an astute clerk down in the county clerk’s office in the Arlington County Courthouse. I guess what raised her suspicion is the number of people that were coming in and applying for marriage licenses that at first appearance seemed…to be coming in groups. And secondly…didn’t appear to know each other. So, she had reported it to her boss, which in turn got to the police department,” she says.
Asked if she was surprised at the number of alleged phony marriages, Capt. Gavin says, “Yeah, I mean everyone is surprised at the number. Part of that number goes into the fact that because the investigation was somewhat lengthy, some of those marriages continued. And they needed to continue so we could get to the root of the problem. But yeah, it is surprising the number of marriages that came into our jurisdiction.”
She adds, “The targets of the investigation were mainly the facilitators, the ones that were actually facilitating a fraud against the system. They’ll be federally charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.”
Authorities say the accused allegedly charged between $2,500 and $6,000 to broker the phony marriages.