BREVARD, Fla. - Three people were sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron for their involvement in a marriage fraud scheme in Brevard County.
William Matthew Tex Price, 31, of Cocoa, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for marriage fraud to run concurrent to a two-year sentence for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
Maria Rogacheva, 28, of Russia, was sentenced to five months in prison.
Khagan Mushfig Oglu Nabili, 24, of Azerbaijan was sentenced to time served.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security, along with the Brevard County Clerk of Courts began their investigation in 2015 when they noticed an increase of immigrants from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other former Soviet countries marrying U.S. citizens in Brevard County, court documents said.
Denis Yakovlev, 40, of Russia and Meghan Toole, 28, of Cocoa, were arrested July 13, 2016.
Yakovlev admitted to investigators that he introduced 100 people to each other over an 18-month period for the purpose of them entering into sham marriages for immigration benefits, a news release said.
Yakovlev said he received anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per marriage and that American citizens were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 each, the news release said.
Yakovelv had Price recruit at least 20 U.S. citizens to participate in the scheme, court documents showed.
Price then recruited a U.S. citizen to marry Nabili as part of the scheme, investigators said. The citizen then filed an immigration petition on Nabili's behalf in an attempt to obtain lawful status for him, investigators said.
Price also recruited his ex-wife, Toole, to enter into a sham marriage with Bakhramovich Yadigarov, 26, of Uzbekistan. Toole filed an immigration petition on Yadigarov's behalf in an attempt to gain lawful status for him, investigators said in a news release.
Price was also involved in fake marriages with Maria Rogacheva and Svetlana Vladimirovna Shakhramanyan, 28, of Azerbaijan.
"These criminals defrauded the government and undermined the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system" said HSI Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero in a news release. "This case should send a clear message that we will continue to target those who try to circumvent our nation's immigration laws."
Yakovlev and Toole pleaded guilty for their involvement. Yakovlev was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for encouraging or inducing an alien to reside in the United States, and Toole was sentenced to 4 months' imprisonment for marriage fraud.
April Coleen Moore, 24, of Satellite Beach, pleaded guilty on Jan. 2 for her sham marriage to Valriy Tsoy, 33, of Kazakhstan. Her sentencing hearing is set for March 23.
Tsoy, Yadigarov and Shakhramanyan are set for trial in May 2018, investigators said.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.