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Document and Benefit Fraud

ICE arrests Mexican actress and 'husband' for entering into sham marriage

LOS ANGELES - A Mexican national who has appeared in feature films and a Los Angeles man she married in June 2005 were arrested this morning on marriage fraud charges that alleged they entered into a sham marriage so the actor could obtain legal status in the United States.

Maria Fernanda Romero Martinez, a 28-year-old actor and model who uses the stage name Fernanda Romero, and Kent Ross, also 28, were arrested at their respective residences this morning by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The two were charged in a criminal complaint filed Thursday. According to the affidavit in support of that complaint, Romero paid Ross to "marry" her on June 12, 2005, but Romero and Ross never lived together as a couple. About one month after the marriage, Romero began dating fashion photographer Markus Klinko, and they lived together for several months. However, according to the affidavit, Romero and Klinko broke up, and Klinko eventually presented ICE with evidence that Romero was in a sham marriage.

Shortly after Romero and Ross were married, Romero filed an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeking to become a permanent resident and obtain a green card, based upon what she claimed was a lawful marriage to Ross. In support of this application, Romero and Ross filed several documents containing false statements, including assertions they lived at the same address, which was never the case. Romero also filed documents containing false statements about how long she had resided in the United States.

"This actor should have realized that posing as a bride for immigration purposes could land her a role in a real-life crime drama," said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "Immigration benefit fraud is a serious crime. Not only does it potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve, it also undermines the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system."

Romero and Ross made their initial appearance in U. S. District Court Friday morning.

The charge of marriage fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.