Teresita Zarrabian of Des Plaines and Michael Smith of Bellwood have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud, according to this Chicago Tribune article. Zarrabian was also charged with obstruction of justice, after allegedly trying to persuade a U.S. citizen to not give information to law enforcement.
The scheme involved Zarrabian and Smith recruiting U.S. citizens to marry immigrants. They would charge between $5,000 and $15,000, also giving $5,000 to the U.S. citizen for agreeing to the marriage. The marrying couples would fly to Las Vegas for the fake ceremonies, and receive guidance on how to pass scrutiny from immigration officials—things like saying they lived together and shared finances.
Smith was personally involved in the first scheme, agreeing to marry an immigrant for $17,000.
The two had arranged four fraudulent marriages between 2005 and 2012, and were caught when Zarrabian tried to recruit an undercover agent in 2010. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Chicago Document and Benefit Fraud Task force.
According to prosecutors, both plead not guilty in federal court and were released on their own recognizance.
They are both facing a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of marriage fraud, and up to 10 years in prison for the visa fraud. Zarrabian’s obstruction of justice charge comes with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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