Seventeen people were accused of participating in a scheme that paired Navy personnel with Russian women for bogus marriages, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride announced the charges after a 28-count federal indictment was unsealed in federal court in
Norfolk. All the defendants have been arrested.
The charges are a "result of our ongoing effort to crack down on allegations of sham marriages in the Navy," MacBride said in a statement.
According to the indictment, the scheme allowed the women to get an immigration benefit while the Navy personnel filed for additional pay based on the sham marriages.
Charges include conspiracy, marriage fraud, false claims, theft of government property, false statements related to naturalization or citizenship, and naturalization fraud.
The indictments are the latest attempt by federal prosecutors to crack down on marriage fraud scams nationwide.
"Fraudulent marriage schemes undermine the integrity of our immigration system," John P. Torres, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, said in a news release. "These sham marriages create a vulnerability in which foreign nationals may gain entry to and remain in the United States for employment or more nefarious purposes."