USCIS Efforts in Tampa Lead to Successful Cases Against Marriage Fraud

TAMPA, Fla.—The efforts of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) led to the successful conviction in a marriage fraud case and the successful sentencing of a marriage fraud ring this week. In the first case, announced July 23, a federal jury found Nerene Erica Harrison guilty of marriage fraud. Harrison faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 23, 2014.

Harrison was indicted on November 13, 2013, along with Robert Kenneth Scott Cruz. According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Harrison, a Jamaican national, came to the United States in 2007 on a temporary work visa. After her visa expired, Harrison offered Cruz, a United States citizen, $6,000 to marry her. They were married on August 15, 2011, and subsequently petitioned for Harrison to receive lawful permanent resident status based on the marriage. Cruz pleaded guilty on March 27, 2014. He faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for November 11, 2014.

In the second case, announced July 25, USCIS efforts led to the successful conviction and sentencing of Cassandra Hamilton to 15 months in federal prison for engaging in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Hamilton pleaded guilty on April 15, 2014. According to court documents, Hamilton engaged in a marriage fraud conspiracy spanning several years, and in excess of ten marriages. Hamilton arranged marriages between U.S. and Jamaican citizens for the purpose of enabling the Jamaican citizens to obtain residency and citizenship. Hamilton was paid for her involvement in arranging the marriages.

“As an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS has zero tolerance for marriage fraud,” said Ruth Dorochoff, USCIS Tampa District Director. “Justice has been served with these convictions, and we remain vigilant in detecting and prosecuting any immigration fraud.”

Regarding the marriage fraud conspiracy, Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa said: “Hamilton conspired to circumvent and exploit our nation’s immigration laws for personal financial gain. Her crimes have also resulted in Jamaican nationals who are now permanently barred from obtaining lawful permanent status in the United States. HSI will continue to work closely with our partner agencies, including USCIS, to protect the integrity of this country’s immigration system.”

Both cases were investigated by ICE’s HSI and USCIS.

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