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Document and Benefit Fraud

ICE arrests 13 for roles in marriage fraud scam

Operation yields 8 criminal and 5 administrative arrests

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 13 individuals on marriage fraud-related charges. U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez and ICE Special Agent in Charge Manuel Oyola Torres announced the arrest today in San Juan.

The indictments charged U.S. Citizen Lydia Josefina Garcia-Rios, 43, and Marcos Antonio Melendez-Garcia, 47, of Peru; U.S. citizen, Jose Miguel Delgado-Ortega, 41, and Gaby M. Yamamoto-Mejia, 43, of Peru; U.S. citizen Jorge Higgs-Gaetan, 41, and Estela Stakun-Del Negro, 47, of Argentina; and U.S. citizen Maria de Lourdes Rosa-Fernandez, 27, and Ricardo Javier Fresneda, 30, of Argentina, with willfully and unlawfully entering into marriage for the purpose of circumventing the immigration laws of the United States. All were in violation of Title 8, United States Code (USC), Section 1325(c) and Title 18, USC Section 2.

The arrests all took place in the San Juan metropolitan area with the exception of Jorge Higgs-Gaetan's and Maria de Lourdes Rosa-Fernandez's who were arrested in Caguas, Puerto Rico and New Jersey, respectively.

"This case highlights ICE's commitment to working with other law enforcement partners to protect both the integrity of our immigration system and our national security," said Manuel Oyola Torres, ICE special agent-in-charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "Marriage fraud poses a serious threat to national security and public safety. These schemes create a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that these criminals are brought to justice."

Marriage fraud is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Aliens charged with this crime face deportation from the United States.

Initial appearances for those arrested in Puerto Rico were held this afternoon in U.S. District Court.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Eugenio A. Lomba.

Defendants are presumed innocent until and when proven guilty.