A Pigeon Forge man and eleven other people were charged Wednesday for a marriage fraud scheme in which U.S. citizens entered into fake marriages with non-citizens, traveling to Sevier County get married, in order to aid their immigration status.
A federal criminal bill of indictment was unsealed Wednesday in Asheville, charging twelve individuals with marriage fraud conspiracy and related charges, for entering into sham marriages for the purpose of evading United States immigration laws, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division joins U.S. Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.
The twelve men and women named in the marriage fraud indictment are:
Ruth Marie Sequoyah McCoy, 54, of Cherokee, N.C.
Timothy Ray Taylor, 41, of Cherokee, N.C.
Golan Perez, 38, of Cherokee, N.C.
Ofir Marsiano, 41, of Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Kaila Nikelle Cucumber, 27, of Cherokee, N.C.
Jessica Marie Gonzalez, 26, of Cherokee, N.C.
Jordan Elizabeth Littlejohn, 28, of Cherokee, N.C.
Kevin Dean Swayney, 36, of Cherokee, N.C.
Ilya Dostanov, 28, of Panama City, Fla.
Ievgenii Reint, 26, of St. Simons Island, Ga.
Shaul Levy, 26, of Norfolk, Va.
Yana Peltz, 30, of Israel
All defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Marsiano is also charged with four counts of marriage fraud, and McCoy and Perez are each charged with three counts of marriage fraud. Taylor, Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, Swayney, Dostanov, Levi and Peltz each face one additional count of marriage fraud.
According to allegations contained in the criminal bill of indictment, beginning in or about June 2015, and continuing through December 2016, in Swain and Jackson counties, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent marriage scheme, in which foreign nationals paid to enter into fraudulent marriages with United States citizens, in order to secure lawful, permanent residence in the United States. The indictment alleges that McCoy, Perez and Marsiano arranged the sham marriages by connecting United States citizens, including Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, and Swayney, with non-citizens, including Dostanov, Reint and Peltz. The non-U.S. citizens typically would pay between $1,500 to $3,000 in exchange for the services.
As alleged in the indictment, once paired, the U.S. Citizens and the non-citizens would travel to Sevier County, Tenn. and enter into fraudulent marriages with each other. According to the indictment, in most cases, after obtaining their marriage certificates, the non-citizens did in fact apply for adjustments to their immigration status based on their marriages to their U.S. spouses. The indictment further alleges that, at times, McCoy and Taylor also acted as “sponsors” for the non-citizens’ applications for adjustments to their immigration status and in exchange they received additional monetary compensation.
Of the twelve defendants charged, seven were arrested Wednesday and appeared in federal court on the charges. Littlejohn, Dostanov, Reint, Levy and Peltz have not been arrested yet.
The marriage fraud conspiracy and marriage fraud charges each carry a maximum prison term of five years, per count.
All charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation was led by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Bradley, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.