On December 17, 2015, a criminal complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Enrique Marquez Jr, in part for being the straw purchaser of the guns used by Syed Farook and his Tashfeen Mailk in the terrorist attack in San Bernardino California on December 2, 2015, in which they brutally murdered 14 innocent Americans. While Syed Farook was a US born citizen, his wife Tashfeen Malik was a Pakistani national who had permanently resided in Saudi Arabia and arrived to the USA fairly recently on a K1 fiancee visa to marry Farook. The couple had a six-month-old baby. Marquez is a US born citizen who, the complaint alleges, provided material support to the terrorists. While most of the national media coverage is concentrated on the heinous acts of terrorism the evil couple and Marquez had committed, it pays little attention to the immigration law violations and emanating from them crimes. In light of the intense national conversation that is not going on on immigration issues, I found it important to pay attention the immigration fraud allegations in the complaint.
The criminal complaint was filed after Marquez cooperated with federal authorities. It alleges that Marquez violated the following federal laws:
- 18 U.S.C. Section 2339A(a) — Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorists
- 18 U.S.C. Section 922(a)(6) — Making a False Statement in Connection of Firearms
- 18 U.S.C. Section 1546 — Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents
Marquez is accused of having violated 18 U.S.C. 1546 on account of the evidence that he entered into a sham marriage with an alien so that she could circumvent the immigration laws of the United States in order to fraudulently obtain permanent resident status. I will discuss the statute that Marquez is accused of violating and the specific evidence in the criminal complaint.
Please follow this link to read a PDF of the criminal complaint with all of the sections concerning the sham marriage highlighted.
18 U.S.C. Section 1546 — Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents
18 U.S.C. 1546 (PDF version) concerns the fraud and misuse of various immigration documents. In the criminal complaint, Marquez is accused of violating the following provision of the statute:
WHOEVER KNOWINGLY MAKES UNDER OATH, OR AS PERMITTED UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY UNDER SECTION 1746 OF TITLE 28, UNITED STATES CODE, KNOWINGLY SUBSCRIBES AS TRUE, ANY FALSE STATEMENT WITH RESPECT TO A MATERIAL FACT IN ANY APPLICATION, AFFIDAVIT, OR OTHER DOCUMENT REQUIRED BY THE IMMIGRATION LAWS OR REGULATIONS PRESCRIBED THEREUNDER, OR KNOWINGLY PRESENTS ANY SUCH APPLICATION, AFFIDAVIT, OR OTHER DOCUMENT WHICH CONTAINS ANY SUCH FALSE STATEMENT OR WHICH FAILS TO CONTAIN ANY REASONABLE BASIS IN LAW OR FACT … SHALL BE FINED UNDER THIS TITLE OR IMPRISONED NOT MORE THAN … 10 YEARS.
Facts in the Criminal Complaint Relating to the Sham Marriage
- M.C., the alleged sham spouse in the complaint, is a citizen of Russia who entered the United States as a J1 exchange visitor on July 2, 2009. Her visa was only valid through September 30, 2009.
- Marquez married M.C. on November 29, 2014.
- Marquez filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on M.C.'s behalf on July 17, 2015. Along with the Form I-130, Marquez submitted a Form G-325A, Biographic Information.
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) scheduled an interview for Marquez and M.C. on December 3, 2015.
- Marquez and M.C. failed to show for the interview, and M.C.'s Form I-485 application for an immigrant visa was denied.
Facts of the Complaint Indicating Marriage Fraud
During his interview, Marquez made several admissions to the effect that he entered into a sham marriage with M.C. in order to help her fraudulently obtain permanent resident status.
- Marquez admitted that he was paid $200 per month for purpose of entering into the sham marriage to help M.C. fraudulently obtain permanent resident status.
- Marquez stated explicitly that M.C.'s sister had encouraged him to enter into the sham marriage with M.C. because M.C. needed to get married in order to stay in the United States.
- Marquez admitted that he and M.C. never shares the address that he indicated under oath that they did on the Form I-130 and Form G-325A. He admitted that they lived separately, and that she lived with her boyfriend (O.R.) who was the father of her child.
Bank records substantiated Marquez's admission that he was paid to enter into the sham marriage. Photographs of Marquez's phone showed internet conversations with him and M.C. where they appeared to be coordinating their responses to questions that they expected to receive during the USCIS interview.
M.C. was found and interviewed at the address where Marquez told FBI agents that she resided. M.C. claimed that she and Marquez had lived together at the address listed on the Form I-130, but that they moved for financial reasons. The address where she lived was the residence of O.R. She admitted that O.R. is the father of her daughter, but described O.R. as her ex-boyfriend. However, documents from a social networking website showed pictures of M.C. and O.R. with their daughter appearing as a couple. Furthermore, O.R.'s profile described him being married to M.C. and M.C.'s profile listed her last name as being the same as O.R.'s last name.
Finally, none of Marquez's family members had any idea that Marquez was married until he told them in early December of 2015.
As the facts are presented in the criminal complaint, there can be little doubt that Marquez's and M.C.'s interview with USCIS would have gone very poorly had they shown up. This does not appear to be a sophisticated attempt at getting away with marriage fraud, but rather an attempt that would have unraveled under scrutiny.
I would like to highlight an interesting message that M.C. sent Marquez (you may find it on page 34 of the criminal complaint):
“[i]f they decline me its my problem not yours.”
Unsurprisingly, M.C. could not be more wrong about this. While Enrique Marquez will face other charges, he would face up to 10 years in prison solely on account of his conduct in the marriage fraud (assuming he is ultimately convicted. This high-profile story should serve as a reminder that not only aliens face severe immigration consequences for participating in marriage fraud. A U.S. citizen can also face serious criminal consequences for his or her part in the sham marriage.