BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Federal officials on Thursday announced charges in a scheme to enter into fraudulent marriages in order to circumvent the nation's immigration laws. The marriage fraud ring allegedly operated out of Brevard County from 2015 to 2016.
Indicted in the alleged conspiracy are: William Price, 31, of Cocoa; April Moore, 24, of Satellite Beach; Khagan Nabili, 24, from Azerbaijan; Zafar Yadigarov, 26, from Uzbekistan; Valriy Tsoy, 33, from Kazakhstan; Maria Rogacheva, 28, from Russia; and Svetlana Shakhramanyan, 28, from Azerbaijan. Each faces up to five years in federal prison.
Denis Yakovlev, 40, from Russia, and Meghan Toole, 28, of Cocoa, were previously charged and pleaded guilty for their involvement in this investigation.
According to court documents, immigration agents worked with the Brevard County Clerk of the Court to track a significant surge in the number of aliens from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other former Soviet countries, marrying U.S. citizens in Brevard County.
The investigation led to the arrest of Yakovlev and Toole in 2016. After his arrest, authorities say 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.
"These criminals conspired to circumvent and exploit our nation's immigration laws for personal financial gain," said James C. Spero, with the Department of Homeland Security. "This undermines the very objectives of our immigration laws and services, which are based on the honesty of the people who apply for immigration benefits."
Investigators said Yakovlev claimed that his payment typically ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per sham marriage, and that the American citizens were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 each.