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- 03-03-2012, 11:01 AM #1
Sailor sent to prison for sham marriage scheme
Sailor sent to prison for sham marriage scheme
By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Mar 3, 2012 10:14:26 EST
A former Norfolk, Va.-based sailor was sentenced Wednesday to four years in federal prison for his role in arranging sham marriages between sailors and illegal immigrants so the sailors could obtain fraudulent housing benefit payments and the foreign nationals could embark on an illicit path to citizenship.
Jermar Jones, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Grenada and termed a “key member” of the fraud ring, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Norfolk by Judge Mark S. Davis to four years and four months behind bars following his October conviction on 11 counts of conspiracy, marriage fraud, false claims against the government, witness tampering and false statements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Virginia’s Eastern District.
The marriage scam involved six sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge. At least four have been convicted and sentenced. All told, the Navy co-conspirators earned a total of $134,000 in fraudulent basic housing allowance payments — all of which must be paid back.
Four other individuals — three citizens of Grenada and a native of Trinidad — were also indicted as part of the scheme, according to court records. The four married sailors to gain legal permanent resident status.
Jones, 27, and others were paid fees out of the illegal BAH benefits in return for finding the spouses and arranging the marriages. Jones also charged some of the foreign nationals fees for finding them a Navy spouse.
The Navy is no stranger to sham marriages. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigated the case along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, estimates that its investigations into such scams have produced the convictions of more than 100 people — about 60 percent of them sailors — over the past four years, and uncovered roughly $1.5 million of BAH fraud.
The scheme began in the fall of 2006 when, according to court records, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) 3rd Class (SW/AW) Jones, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and an unindicted co-conspirator asked Airman Justin James Robbins of Adkins, Texas, to recruit Kearsarge sailors. In December, Robbins talked Seaman Logistics Specialist (SW) Chitara Denisha Bowers of Reddick, Fla., into marrying a foreign national, Jones’ cousin, for the BAH benefits. Bowers and Otis Jones were married and photographed by Jermar Jones so the pictures could be submitted to immigration officials.
Bowers initially failed to file for BAH. Jones, according to court papers, “began to threaten her” to do so. In March 2007, she filed, eventually receiving more than $40,000 in fraudulent BAH. Soon afterward, she transferred a portion of the initial earnings to Robbins’ bank account.
In short order, Robbins and “R.O.,” a Kearsarge sailor, talked about a similar deal, and Robbins said he’d set R.O. up with a foreign national wife for $1,500 in fraudulently obtained BAH. In May 2007, Jermar Jones told Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) 3rd Class (AW/SW) Darius Stefan Alexander of Magnolia, Ark., that he could “hook him up with some extra money by getting married.”
That same month, R.O. married a foreign national the same day he met her — again, photographed by Jones — and filed for BAH based on his fraudulent marriage. R.O. was paid a total of $28,000 in fraudulent BAH. During this same time frame, a foreign national paid Jones $6,000 to arrange a marriage to Alexander.
Jones introduced the two — the foreign national was Jones’ childhood friend from Grenada — in June. They were married the same day. Alexander was paid about $60,000 in BAH for his fraudulent marriage.
That fall, Bowers told “A.W.,” another Kearsarge sailor, that he was in a fraudulent marriage and that “everybody was doing it.” A.W. told Jones she was interested; on March 31, 2008, she met her intended husband, a man from Trinidad, for the first time. That same day, they were married in Hampton, Va., with Jones present.
In April 2008, the woman who married Alexander forged his name on a registration form for permanent resident status, submitted it and it was approved. That same month, A.W. decided against filing for fraudulent BAH. Jones threatened to turn her in to the Navy and also told her, “I know where you live.” He later verbally bullied R.O. into forcing his foreign-born wife to obtain documents she needed to submit a claim and later issued threats to other Kearsarge sailors, according to court records.
In June 2009, Jones was questioned by NCIS agents about the Bowers marriage. He denied knowing it was fraudulent and receiving any payment for “arranging any marriages.”
Jones received the longest prison term of the group. In earlier hearings, Robbins was sentenced to 12 months and one day, three years supervised release and payment of $57,738.64 restitution; Bowers, to five years’ probation and payment of $43,706.12 restitution; and Alexander, to five years’ probation and payment of $62,353.55 restitution.
Jones’ stiffer punishment was based on his leadership role in the ring; the finding that he “pressured and threatened” other members of the conspiracy when they didn’t follow through with the fraud and when NCIS agents began investigating the scheme; and his false statement to agents and the court’s finding that he gave false testimony at trial.
The fate of the two sailors referred to only by their initials in court records was not noted in those records, and an Eastern District spokeswoman could not yet reach prosecutors.
- 03-03-2012, 11:07 AM #2
People these days will do anything to make a buck. What ever happened to honor and beig a decent human being? Glad he was caught! Idiot!
- 03-03-2012, 12:14 PM #3
Foreign nationals seem to be a PLAGUE of crime and corruption.You cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become in every
respect and with every purpose of your will thoroughly Americans. You
cannot become thoroughly Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. President Woodrow Wilson