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California man pleads guilty to arranging hundreds of sham marriages

By The Associated Press - | Sep 29, 2023

BOSTON (AP) — A California man has pleaded guilty to arranging hundreds of sham marriages in an effort to circumvent immigration laws, federal prosecutors said.

Marcialito Biol Benitez, a 49-year-old Philippine national living in Los Angeles, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and immigration document fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper scheduled sentencing for Jan. 10.

A lawyer for Benitez said his client was declining to comment.

In a statement, the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said Benitez operated a large-scale marriage fraud agency in which he arranged marriages between foreign nationals and American citizens. Federal prosecutors alleged the agency charged fees between $20,000 to $35,000 to submit false paperwork substantiating the sham marriages. Operated out of an office in Los Angeles, prosecutors alleged that Benitez had his staff recruit American citizens for the marriages and submitted fraudulent marriage and immigration documents including false tax returns.

After matching the couples, the agency would stage fake weddings at chapels, parks and other locations. Authorities alleged he helped 600 clients between October 2016 and March 2022, prosecutors said.

Benitez is the seventh defendant to plead guilty in this case.


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