California man committed marriage and immigration fraud

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A California man pleaded guilty to arranging hundreds of sham marriages in an effort to evade immigration laws, federal prosecutors said.

Marcialito Biol Benitez, a 49-year-old Filipino citizen who lives 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 declined 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 foreigners and U.S. citizens. Federal prosecutors alleged that the agency charged fees of between $20,000 and $35,000 for submitting false documentation corroborating sham marriages. Operating from an office in Los Angeles, prosecutors alleged that Benitez had his staff recruit U.S. citizens for marriages and filed fraudulent marriage and immigration documents, including false tax returns.

After matching couples, the agency organized fake weddings in 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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