Matchmaker Gets Federal Prison For Marriage Fraud
McALLEN, Texas - An Edinburg woman has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
At a hearing yesterday, Chief United States District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa handed Sandy Botello Ramirez, 77, a sentence of 24 months in federal prison and further ordered she serve two years of supervised release following completion of that prison term.
When sentencing Botello, the court noted she was a matchmaker of marriages that did not exist and that through those sham marriages, Botello committed a huge fraud on the United States and the people of this country.
From 2002 to the time of her arrest, Botello arranged more than 30 sham marriages between foreign nationals and United States Citizens for profit. Foreign nationals hired Botello help them obtain residency status in the United States by arranging a sham marriage with a U.S. citizen whom Botello paid to participate.
Botello relied on recruiters to help her find U.S. citizens to enter into the marriages.
One recruiter, Celia Carranza-Palacios, was convicted and ordered to serve three years of supervised release.
Botello committed marriage fraud by arranging marriages where the couple did not intend to establish a life together when they got married but were only seeking immigration benefits. Botello completed the immigration paperwork and would instruct the pair how to present themselves as a married couple. Botello told them to get a common law marriage certificate and take pictures together and instructed the couples how to answer questions at their immigration interview.
By filing a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. citizens may seek the residency for their alien relative. These petitions are legal and permit a U.S. citizen to bring his or her close relative, such as a spouse, to the United States. Marriage fraud occurs when this petition for residency is filed, but the bride and groom did not intend to establish a life together at the time they were married.
Botello has been on bond during the pendency of the case and will be permitted to voluntarily surrender to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
This case was investigated by agents with USCIS and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen Rees and Kimberly Leo prosecuted the case.