A marriage fraud scheme was discovered in Horry County leading to the arrests of several individuals. Timothy Staei, 26, plead guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Staei excepted a payment to marry Hannah Logasi, an Israeli National, to help her establish permanent residence in the U.S. Logasi was also applying for U.S. citizenship. She is now a fugitive in the case. Staei will be sentenced at a later date. Authorities say the marriage fraud ring helped Israeli Nationals find willing citizens to marry them in exchange for cash payments ranging from $1400 to $4000.
First Assistant US Attorney for South Carolina, Kevin McDonald, says the burden of the prosecutors is to prove the two never intended to live together as a traditional married couple. He also explained how the ring was discovered and how many were involved. “In addition to Mr. Staei,” said McDonald, “there was also an American citizen by the name of Joseph Wilson. He has already entered a plea of guilty of conspiracy to engage in marriage fraud as well as two Israeli Nationals who plead guilty after being located in New York (City). They actually entered their guilty pleas in New York.”
McDonald says this is not the type of case his office sees every day but, by no means, is it uncommon. “Certainly cases we’ve handled in the past show that there are individuals that are willing to organize these elicit marriages for payment and there are certainly individuals who are in the country from other nationalities who are willing to pay money in an effort to stay in this country.”
McDonald says both Staei and Logasi are subject to the same maximum penalty of five years and a $250,000 dollar fine. Logasi will then face deportation after she serves her time. He explains how his office was made aware of the marriage fraud ring. “Immigration agents came upon a marriage fraud ring that was operating in that area,” he said. “Basically it involved Israeli Nationals being paired up with American citizens willing to marry those Israelis for money.
“The purpose of the marriage was for the Israeli Nationals to then apply to immigration officials for authority to stay in the country by virtue of the fact that they were married to an American citizen.”