County Employees Involved in Sham Marriage Scam, Feds Say

10 with Chicago ties allegedly involved in marriage-for-citizenship scheme

By BJ Lutz
|  Monday, Nov 23, 2009  |  Updated 2:15 PM CDT
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County Employees Involved in Sham Marriage Scam, Feds Say

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Five current or former county workers are among 10 people with Chicago connections indicted in an alleged scam to arrange sham marriages.

Federal authorities say former Traffic Court employee Maria Cruz, 49, conspired to arrange up to 15 fake marriages, according to an indictment handed up last week and revealed Monday.

Cruz allegedly promised U.S. citizens $3,000 for the marriage with non-U.S citizens -- mostly Filipinos -- and approximately $300 to $350 every month until the foreign national obtained U.S. Citizenship, prosecutors said.

Cruz was arrested in California.  Five other people allegedly involved in the scheme were arrested Monday, including including Chicago immigration lawyer Manny Aguja, 53, and two of his employees -- his twin brother Marc Aguja and Celeste Ligutan-Lopez.  They are accused of drawing up the paperwork and coaching participants on how to make their marriages appear legitimate, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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