CHARLESTON, S.C. – A Bulgarian man who fraudulently obtained U.S. citizenship in a marriage fraud scheme originating in South Carolina had that citizenship revoked by a federal judge in Georgia Monday, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Krassimir Simeonov, 43, residing in Canada, was convicted of marriage fraud charges in November 2007 and served 15 months in federal prison. He and his co-conspirator wife, Mariana Simeonov, were the masterminds behind a marriage fraud scheme that started in 1997 and ended April 24, 2007 with their federal indictment in South Carolina. Following his conviction, ICE attorneys filed a petition in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, to revoke his fraudulently obtained citizenship. Monday, U.S. District Judge Horace T. Ward revoked Simeonov's U.S. citizenship.
"Immigration benefit fraud schemes undermine the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system, pose a security vulnerability and potentially rob deserving immigrants of benefits they rightfully deserve," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "The exploitation of our proud legal immigration tradition for profit is morally repugnant and HSI will move aggressively against those who engage in such criminal conduct." Nicholson oversees HSI activities in Georgia and the Carolinas.
In 2005, HSI special agents initiated an investigation dubbed "Operation True Lies" into a marriage fraud scheme that involved South Carolina residents and Bulgarians living in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Georgia.
As a result of the operation, 13 fake marriages were uncovered, the first of them dated about September 1997.
The couples falsely stated on legal documents that they were living together as husband and wife when they were not and had no intentions of doing so, according to the indictment. The fraudulent marriages allowed the Bulgarians to obtain rights and privileges that allowed them to stay in the country without having to apply for authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.
The HSI investigation revealed that American citizens were paid $2,000 each to marry Bulgarians and to represent to immigration authorities that each marriage was a true relationship.
To date, 27 of the targets have been convicted and sentenced in the scheme.