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Press Release

Brooklyn Couple Arrested for Immigration Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Defendants Allegedly Paid U.S. Citizens to Enter Into Sham Marriages With Foreign Nationals

A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging William Jacobsen and his wife Marta Medvedeva with conspiring, and aiding and abetting others, to enter into sham marriages with foreign nationals for the purpose of obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States.  The defendants were also charged with evading United States immigration laws by making materially false statements in immigration applications, affidavits and other documents.  The defendants’ initial appearances were held this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon. 

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the charges.

“Our immigration process is not for sale.  The defendants’ scheme to game the system and reap ill-gotten profits by promoting sham marriages is not only criminal, it is an affront to those individuals who abide by the rules to obtain permanent residency in the United States lawfully,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “Today’s charges send the clear message that this Office and our partners at the FBI will not tolerate such activity.”

As alleged in the complaint, between approximately November 2016 and January 2019, Jacobsen and Medvedeva identified and recruited U.S. citizens who were willing to enter into sham marriages with foreign nationals.  The foreign nationals paid the defendants approximately $30,000 for their services, and a portion of the fee was then passed on to the U.S. citizen spouses for their participation in the fraud.  The defendants also coached the couples on how to successfully pass immigration interviews and provided misleading or false documentation needed during various steps in the immigration process.

During several recordings and communications, Jacobsen and Medvedeva discussed the details of their scheme, including the number of participants they had available to participate in the “fake” marriages (as characterized by Jacobsen), payment of approximately $10,000 to the U.S. citizens for their services, and the coaching and training the couples would receive to pass the required immigration interviews.  In one recorded conversation, Jacobsen explained to a confidential source posing as a potential U.S. citizen spouse:    

The hardest part is getting married.  The easy part is the [immigration] interview, because I know the questions they’re gonna ask you.  That’s why everyone comes here, because they want training.   Everybody’s looking for training.  When I do it, it’s a five minute interview.  You go with the lawyer, you’re in there for an hour, hour and a half.  I’ve been doing it for fifteen years ….  This is the easy part. The hardest part is the marriage, cause both sides are nervous, they have to go there and kiss each other.  Interview is nothing, that’s the easy part.

The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, Jacobsen and Medvedeva each face a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Maria Cruz Melendez and Elizabeth Macchiaverna are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendants:

Age: 60
Brooklyn, New York

Age: 68
Queens, New York

EDNY Docket No. 19-MJ-57


John Marzulli
Tyler Daniels
United States Attorney’s Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated January 29, 2019