Mixed Reviews as ICE Breaks Up a Mass Marriage Fraud Ring in Florida

By David North on September 10, 2012

If enforcement targeting immigration marriage fraud is sometimes dramatic, as it often is, then perhaps there is a role for a drama critic.

With than in mind here's a mixed review of the latest big ICE marriage fraud bust, as seen in both an ICE press release and in underlying documents in the federal court system.

While applause is certainly warranted for any ICE marriage fraud operation that leads to 21 indictments, as this one does, I worry that this is not a new fraud, but the second round of a fraud ring first uncovered in 2008; further, I find it unsettling that ICE called it "Operation Knot So Fast 2012".

Much as I appreciate the double pun in "Knot So Fast" (and there is an incipient third one here, involving "so" and "sew"), I wish both ICE and the press would stop being playful about immigration marriage fraud.

Every non-detected act of which, by definition, not only creates a custom-made amnesty for a criminal alien, but also draws at least one citizen into crime as well. While immigration marriage fraud sometimes is used to bring a criminal alien to this country as a new arrival, more typically it is used to create the "legalization" of an alien already in the country, usually someone in illegal status. (I regard any alien seeking to get a green card via a phony marriage as a criminal.)

That said about the name of the operation, let's look at these cases (dramas) in a little more detail.

There were two rounds of these crimes. The first, in 2008, led to 29 federal indictments and the second, just a few days ago, to 21 more, for a thumping total of 50 indictments.

Further, in these cases both citizens and aliens were charged; too often, in other marriage fraud cases I have reviewed over the last couple of years, the ringleader alone is charged and the aliens' punishment seems to consist only of losing their green cards and facing deportation, while the citizens get off with being called "unindicted co-conspirators".

That's a lot of law enforcement in these two cases, and that is all totally commendable.

What I find puzzling, however, is the role of one Ender Rodriguez, who was the principal marriage broker and producer of fraudulent documents in a 2008 case in central Florida, who was sent to prison for 33 months for these crimes, and who also played a major role, according to the ICE press release, in the sequel, "Operation Knot So Fast 2012".

The first point is that after his trip to prison Rodriquez, presumably a U.S. citizen, quickly and successfully returned to his old bad habits. It also suggests that neither ICE nor USCIS kept an eye on him once released, or at least not until a lot of harm was done.

Secondly, while Rodriquez is discussed in the recent press release, he apparently has not been — or may not yet have been — indicted in the current case. The ICE release is headed "21 Individuals Charged in 'Operation Knot So Fast 2012'". The names of 10 married couples and another alleged arranger, Bethanie Deschamps, are in the press release, but not that of Rodriguez; nor is there a listing in the federal court's record system, PACER, showing a 2012 indictment.

The related documents in such cases are sometimes of interest. In several instances, the PACER listing for the indicted citizen also shows a totally separate bankruptcy filing by someone of the same name, in the same judicial district, probably the same person. That the poor could be lured into marriage fraud for the fees — usually $5,000 in these cases, but one was for $11,000 — should not come as a surprise.

In another instance, a sentencing document of a citizen, a pregnant woman, one finds that the system arranged things in such a way that both her three months in jail and the two months of home confinement were timed to take place before the arrival of the baby, so that a little future citizen would not be born in a penitentiary. (The prison system also probably would just as soon not have births taking place in its facilities.)

Users of PACER can see more about the 2008 conspiracy in case 6:08-cr-00110-RDB-DAB in the Middle District of Florida, and for the current one, see case 6:12-cr-00174-JA-KRS in the same district; in both instances, document 1, the indictment, is the most interesting and detailed.

Despite these caveats, busting 50 people for marriage fraud cases is obviously a good thing, and a credit to the sitting U.S. Attorney, Robert E. O'Neill, and his staff.