A federal criminal bill of indictment, unsealed in June, charged 12 individuals with marriage fraud conspiracy and related charges, for entering into sham marriages for the purposes of evading United States immigration laws. Now, four of those individuals have pleaded guilty in the case.
Kaila Cucumber, Kevin Swayney, Jordan Littlejohn, and Jessica Gonzalez – all of Cherokee – have pleaded guilty to felony marriage fraud [8 USC 1325(c)] according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count. A date for sentencing has not been set as of press time.
According to allegations contained in the criminal bill of indictment, beginning in or about June 2015, and continuing through December 2016, in Swain and Jackson counties, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent marriage scheme, in which foreign nationals paid to enter into fraudulent marriages with United States citizens, in order to secure lawful, permanent residence in the United States. The indictment alleges that Ruth McCoy, Golan Perez and Ofir Marsiano arranged the sham marriages by connecting United States citizens, including Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, and Swayney, with non-citizens, including Ilya Dostanov, Ievgenii Reint and Yana Peltz. The non-U.S. citizens typically would pay between $1,500 to $3,000 in exchange for the services.
As alleged in the indictment, once paired, the U.S. Citizens and the non-citizens would travel to Sevier County, Tenn., and enter into fraudulent marriages with each other. According to the indictment, in most cases, after obtaining their marriage certificates, the non-citizens did in fact apply for adjustments to their immigration status based on their marriages to their U.S. spouses. The indictment further alleges that, at times, McCoy and Timothy Ray Taylor also acted as “sponsors” for the non-citizens’ applications for adjustments to their immigration status and in exchange they received additional monetary compensation.
McCoy, Marsiano, Perez, and Taylor have continued their trials.
The investigation was led by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Bradley, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case. John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division joins U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.
– One Feather staff report