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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 22, 2018

United States Citizens And Illegal Aliens Sentenced For Involvement In Brevard Marriage Fraud Ring

Orlando, Florida – U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron has sentenced three individuals for their involvement in a marriage fraud ring operating out of Brevard County. William Matthew Tex Price (31, Cocoa) was sentenced to two years in federal prison for marriage fraud to run concurrent to a two-year sentence for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Maria Rogacheva (28, Russia) was sentenced to 5 months’ imprisonment and Khagan Mushfig Oglu Nabili (24, Azerbaijan) was sentenced to time served.

According to court documents, in October 2015, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations worked with the Brevard County Clerk of the Court to investigate a significant surge in the number of aliens from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other former Soviet countries marrying U.S. citizens in Brevard County. This led to the arrest of Denis Yakovlev (40, Russia) and Meghan Toole (28, Cocoa) on July 13, 2016.

After his arrest, Yakovlev admitted to introducing approximately 100 individuals to each other over an 18-month period for the purpose of them entering into sham marriages for immigration benefits. Yakovlev claimed that his payment ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per sham marriage, and that the American citizens were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 each.

Yakovlev “employed” Price, who recruited at least 20 U.S. citizens to participate in the scheme. In August 2015, Price recruited a U.S. citizen to enter into a sham marriage with Nabili. The citizen then filed an immigration petition on Nabili’s behalf in an attempt to obtain lawful status for him. The following month, Price recruited his ex-wife, Toole, to enter into a sham marriage with Bakhramovich Yadigarov (26, Uzbekistan). Toole filed an immigration petition on Yadigarov’s behalf in an attempt to gain lawful status for him.

Price also engaged in fraudulent marriages with Maria Rogacheva and Svetlana Vladimirovna Shakhramanyan (28, Azerbaijan). Rogacheva attempted to avoid prosecution by filing a lengthy petition falsely claiming to be a battered spouse based on her sham marriage to Price. She later admitted that she had not entered into the marriage in good faith, she had never lived with Price as husband and wife, and she had never been battered by Price.

“These criminals defrauded the government and undermined the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system” said HSI Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero. “This case should send a clear message that we will continue to target those who try to circumvent our nation’s immigration laws.”

Denis Yakovlev (40, Russia) and Meghan Toole (28, Cocoa) previously pleaded guilty for their involvement in this conspiracy. In November 2016, Yakovlev was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for encouraging or inducing an alien to reside in the United States, and Toole was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment for marriage fraud.

April Coleen Moore (24, Satellite Beach) pleaded guilty on January 2, 2018, for her sham marriage to Valriy Tsoy (33, Kazakhstan). Her sentencing hearing is on March 23, 2018. Tsoy, Yadigarov, and Shakhramanyan are set for trial in May 2018.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina R. Downes who is on assignment from the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, ICE.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Firearms Offenses
Immigration
Component(s): 
Updated February 22, 2018