Navy sinks marriage-for-money scam

Eight sailors charged with taking $35,000 for sham marriages

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) — Eight
sailors were charged Tuesday with arranging sham marriages to Polish
and Romanian women to help the women obtain U.S. citizenship and to
collect bigger military housing allowances for themselves.

An
investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that none of the women lived
with the sailors they married.

In all, the eight sailors received
$35,000 in fraudulent basic housing allowance payments, investigators
said. One sailor was allegedly getting $1,836 per month.

The Navy
terminated the allowances in November. If convicted, the seven current
and one former sailor from the USS Kennedy and USS Simpson could face
up to five years in prison per count.

Basic housing allowance is
a tax-free payment that active-duty members of the U.S. military
receive to offset their housing costs if they do not live on base. The
amount is based on location, marital status and the number of
dependents.

One of the women, a Polish nanny, was also charged,
and authorities were seeking seven other women, six of them Polish and
one Romanian.

Each paid $6,000 for the weddings to the sailors so
they could petition for U.S. citizenship, according to U.S. Attorney
Paul Perez.

The NCIS investigation began last September when a
Navy petty officer assigned to the Kennedy was approached by a seaman
from the Simpson with the opportunity to receive a basic housing
allowance for marrying a Polish woman.

The seaman who arranged
the marriage was to receive $6,000 from the woman and the petty officer
was to receive the basic housing allowance, officials said.

Five
of the sailors appeared Tuesday in federal court in Jacksonville. They
were released after each signed a $10,000 unsecured bond.

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