Ivette Leyva Martinez
HAVANA TIMES — In yet another shameful spectacle for the defenders of the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), 14 people stood before a Miami federal court this Thursday on charges of contracting false marriages and committing immigration fraud to take advantages of the benefits afforded by the legislation.
According to a report from the South Florida Federal District Attorney’s Office, the frauds were committed between December 2009 and July 2014. They were perpetrated by two individuals identified as 51-year-old Odalys Marrero and 62-year-old Rolando Mulet, both residents of Kendall.
The alleged leaders of the fraud network recruited Cuban citizens who were eligible for permanent residency in the United States under the CAA and arranged fraudulent marriages with foreigners willing to pay for the service in order to evade the immigration regulations applicable to them.
Marrero and Mulet are accused of conspiring with six Cuban nationals and six non-Cuban hispanics to arrange these fraudulent marriages. The charges are conspiracy to arrange fraudulent marriages and related immigration fraud.
Marrero and Mulet are accused of charging foreigners for arranging the marriage, notarizing the fraudulent marriage certificates, filling out all of the migratory documents required and preparing the conspirators for their interviews with officers from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Under the CAA – in effect since 1966 – any Cuban citizen may obtain permanent US residency (for themselves and their spouses, regardless of their nationality) after residing in the United States for a year and submitting a valid entry document (known as a “parole” document).
Some 30,000 Cubans secure permanent residency in the United States every year under the CAA. The most recent figure (from 2013) was of 32,219 such cases.
The six marriages registered in the document were contracted in South Florida. With the exception of two, the accused reside in the Miami-Dade County.
Severe Sentences and Deportation in Sight
The case is being tried by assistant district attorney Robert Emery.
In addition to Marrero and Mulet, the following individuals were also arrested and charged:
Katiusca Elena Aguilar Navarro, 28 years old, from Doral.
Carlos Alberto Mederos Paule, 46 years old, from Miami.
Manuel Andres Gomez, 46 years old, from Wilton Manors (Broward).
Virginia De La Caridad Mederos Paule, 57 years old, from Miami.
Elisabet Kerese Alvarez, 38 years old, from Aventura.
Osvaldo Lastre Duran, 48 years old, from Sweetwater.
Natacha Perera, 44 years old, from North Miami.
Javier Manejias, 51 years old, from Antioch (Tenessee).
Marianelly Auxiliado Rodriguez, 48 years old, from Doral.
Rafael Abreu Gonzalez, de 46 years old, from Hialeah.
Okyvi Olmar Yoll Mesa, 35 years old, from Doral.
Salvador L Cabanas, 44 years old, from Kendall.
If they are found guilty the accused could face 20-year prison sentences. Because they committed felonies, all of the accused would be processed for deportation after serving their sentences.
United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Marriage and immigration fraud is a serious crime that seeks to undermine the integrity and fairness of our immigration system. Our Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these crimes and prosecute those individuals who seek to perpetrate fraudulent immigration schemes.”
The investigation was conducted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service and the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
This is not the first strike against immigration fraud under the CAA dealt by the District Attorney’s Office in Miami.
In April of 2013, 20 people were accused of falsifying and selling Cuban birth certificates to hundreds of illegal aliens to fraudulently secure permanent residency in the United States for them. Operation Havana Gateway was the largest action against fraud using Cuban documents of the last decade.
Several years ago, the United States and Cuba established a channel of cooperation to unmask immigration fraud by Latin American citizens pretending to be Cubans in order to obtain permanent residency and US citizenship. These collaborative efforts aim at verifying the authenticity of the documents, especially birth certificates, submitted by those who apply for permanent residency under the CAA.
The battle against immigration fraud is one of the issues tackled by migratory talks of recent years and today constitutes one of the matters to be addressed by the special commission that will resume negotiations in September, following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.