Underground immigration ring busted

Ten people with Chicago connections have been indicted on federal charges of running a marriage fraud scheme that paid American citizens thousands of dollars to marry immigrants in an effort to skirt immigration laws, the U.S. attorney's office said today.

Federal authorities allege Maria Cruz, 49, and her co-defendants arranged up to 15 "sham marriages" in which non-U.S. citizens -- many of them Filipinos -- offered to pay Cruz $3,000 to arrange marriages with American citizens.

According to an indictment unsealed today, Cruz paid a fee for referrals to U.S. citizens willing to enter into the fake marriages. She allegedly promised them they would be paid about $3,000 up front for the marriage and $300 to $350 for each month until the non-citizen got citizenship.

The indictment alleges that between 2003 and 2009 Cruz would drive people to their purported weddings and take pictures before and after to make it appear that real ceremonies had taken place. She would also advise participants in the scam on how to make their marriages seem real to immigration officials, federal authorities allege.

from the Trib

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