Man Pleads Guilty to Running a Sham Marriage Agency in the U.S.

A Filipino national pleaded guilty on Wednesday to being part of a group that arranged sham marriages and filed fraudulent applications on behalf of more than 600 immigrants in the United States who needed green cards.

Wedding Ceremonies FraudThe fraudulent agency organized the sham marriages in chapels, parks, and other settings. (Photo: U.S. Department of Justice, License)Marcialito Biol Benitez, nicknamed “Mars,” 49, is one of eleven people who were indicted in April 2022 for operating the fake agency that facilitated these arrangements between October 2016 and March 2022, according to the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office. He is the seventh to admit guilt in this case.

Based in Los Angeles, Benitez ran his fraudulent agency, which arranged marriages between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals and then handled the immigration paperwork in exchange for a commission ranging from US$20,000 to $35,000 in cash.

A group of co-conspirators assisted with these arranged marriages, submitting false documents, including fraudulent tax returns, and recruiting U.S. citizens to marry the agency's clients in exchange for payment.

They even organized wedding ceremonies, hired officiants online, and advised their clients to maintain the appearance of a legitimate marriage.

"For many clients, the agency took photos of undocumented clients and citizen spouses in front of prop wedding decorations to be filed later with immigration petitions," the statement said.

Using the images and fraudulent documents, the agency submitted petitions to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting lawful permanent resident status for their clients.

“Benitez’s agency would assist certain clients – typically those whose spouses became unresponsive or uncooperative – with obtaining green cards under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by claiming the undocumented clients had been abused by alleged American spouses. Specifically, the agency would submit fraudulent applications on clients’ behalf for temporary restraining orders against spouses based on fabricated domestic violence allegations,” explained the Massachusetts District Attorney's Office.