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Press Release

Four Jacksonville Residents Plead Guilty To Immigration Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that four Jacksonville residents who were born in the Philippines have pleaded guilty to immigration fraud offenses. Mark Laurence Barlaan (36) and Winnie Rabaya Barlaan (65) pleaded guilty to marriage fraud and face a maximum penalty of five years each in federal prison. Peter Laforteza Barlaan (63) pleaded guilty to immigration document fraud and Mary Helen Amaba Barlaan (32) pleaded guilty to obtaining U.S. citizenship by fraud.  They each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. In their plea agreements, Mark and Mary Barlaan have agreed to leave the United States after the completion of the legal proceedings and any prison sentence imposed by the Court.  The sentencing dates have not yet been set.

According to court documents, Winnie and Peter Barlaan are naturalized U.S. citizens.  Mary Barlaan entered the United States with a temporary visitor’s visa in November 2007, and Mark Barlaan entered the country with a temporary work visa in December 2008.

Mark Barlaan is Peter Barlaan’s son. Before Mark and Mary Barlaan came to the United States, they were involved in a romantic relationship with each other, and that relationship continued after they came to the United States.

On September 9, 2009, the day after Peter Barlaan became a U.S. citizen, he married Mary Barlaan, his son’s girlfriend. On October 25, 2011, Mark Barlaan and Winnie Barlaan were married. Peter Barlaan paid Winnie Barlaan several thousand dollars in exchange for her marrying Mark Barlaan and cooperating in the immigration proceedings.

Under U.S. immigration law, aliens married to U.S. citizens are given priority in the granting of immigration benefits. By marrying U.S. citizens, Mark and Mary Barlaan could obtain these benefits faster and without meeting the requirements applicable to persons who are not married to U.S. citizens. In an attempt to conceal the fact that they had committed marriage fraud, these individuals made false statements on documents they had submitted to immigration authorities, and that made false statements during interviews and other encounters with immigration officials.

On June 5, 2013, Mary Barlaan became a naturalized citizen of the United States.  Because she obtained her citizenship by fraud, her conviction will result in a revocation of citizenship by the Court.

"Marriage fraud is a federal crime, and can have grave consequences for national security," said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa "Defrauding the U.S. government is not a victimless crime."

"As an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS has zero tolerance for marriage fraud," said Kathy Redman, USCIS Southeast Regional Director. "We remain vigilant in detecting and assisting in the prosecution of any immigration fraud."

This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arnold B. Corsmeier.

Updated February 4, 2016