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Document and Benefit Fraud
03/25/2010

9 plead guilty in marriage fraud scheme

Individuals entered into sham marriages to gain citizenship

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Nine individuals who were arrested last December as part of Columbus-based marriage fraud scheme pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court. Two are awaiting trial.

Carter M. Stewart, U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in Ohio and Michigan, announced the pleas on March 25.

According to the investigation, Columbus-area residents Hasan Salohutdinov, Dmitry Pani, Sviatlana A. Piskunova and Laura Elizabeth Grace Scott recruited U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, primarily Eastern Europeans, to enter into sham marriages to evade immigration laws, starting in January 2007. The foreign nationals paid about $17,000 to marry U.S. citizens. The foreign nationals were allegedly promised legal residency in return for marrying citizens and the citizens were promised monetary compensation.

The investigation also revealed that defendants would counsel sham wedding partners regarding actions to take in order to lend the appearance of being a legitimate marriage, and assist non-citizens in preparing fraudulent documents to present to immigration officials.

Each count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud is punishable by up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release. Foreign nationals also face deportation after any prison time served. A list of those charged is below:

Charged foreign nationals
NameCityStatus

Hasan Salohutdinov

Columbus

Awaiting trial

Elbek Saidjanov

Philadelphia

Awaiting trial

Dmitri Pani

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Sviatlana Piskunova

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Laura Scott

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Courtnie Good

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Iskander Tairov

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Brent Woods

Columbus

Guilty Plea

LaDawna Tackett

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Djafar Sobirov

Columbus

Guilty Plea

Sobithon Mirzaev

New Orleans

Guilty Plea

Stewart commended the investigation by ICE agents, and the assistance of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Columbus Police Department Franklin County Sheriffs Office and Reynoldsburg Police Department.