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Investigators don’t actively pursue fraud marriages

Apr. 5, 2013 - 04:35PM   |  
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If you’re a junior Marine looking to marry a stranger for extra benefits and the right to live off-base, there’s good news: The Marine Corps isn’t all that interested in going after you.

A March cover story in Marine Corps Times described how the Corps had uncovered a ring of at least eight North Carolina-based Marines who entered sham marriages with Ghanaian women as part of a benefits-for-Green Card exchange. Witnesses at a special court-martial for one of the Marines, Lance Cpl. Donald Mitchem, claimed it was common knowledge that single Marines frequently seek sham marriages. With Basic Allowance for Housing, Basic Allowance for Subsistence, and family separation allowance if the spouses live apart, a lance corporal stationed at Camp Lejeune can collect an extra $20,475 a year — just for having a marriage license.

Though budget constraints have pulled Marine Corps bands and ceremonial units off the road and are expected to force unpaid furloughs on the military civilian workforce, investigators are showing little interest in going after perpetrators of marriage fraud, officials said.

“From a law enforcement perspective, an ‘arranged marriage’ amounts to fraud against the government,” said Camp Lejeune spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Sarah Burns in an emailed statement on behalf of the base Criminal Investigation Division. However, “at this time, CID Camp Lejeune is not working any investigation related to this type of fraud, nor are any proactive operations being conducted in search of such activity.”

Burns explained that evidence of guilt is subjective in marriage-fraud cases and investigating suspected cases can be “lengthy and manpower intensive.”

Similarly, investigators are not monitoring the local Craigslist site, a popular spot for solicitation of contract marriage arrangements, though tenant commands are encouraged to turn in anyone they suspect of fraud, she said.

At Marine Corps Station Miramar, Calif., where three corporals were busted in a 2011 marriage scam, a spokesman declined Marine Corps Times’ request to interview CID, saying officials were too busy to accommodate it.

A spokesman for Camp Pendleton said CID officials do not have active marriage-fraud investigations and did not want to discuss their methods.

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