USCIS Efforts in Jacksonville Lead to Indictment for Marriage Fraud
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The efforts of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) led to the indictment charging Jacksonville residents Mark Laurence Barlaan, Winnie Rabaya Barlaan, Mary Helen Amaba Barlaan, and Peter Laforteza Barlaan with marriage fraud, immigration document fraud, lying to a federal agency, and conspiracy to commit those crimes. The indictment also charges Mary Baarlan with fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship. If convicted on all counts, each faces a maximum penalty of 15 to 25 years in federal prison.
According to the indictment, each of the four charged individuals was born in the Philippines. Winnie Barlaan and Peter Barlaan later became naturalized U.S. citizens. Mary Barlaan entered the United States with a temporary visitor’s visa in November 2007, and Mark Barlaan entered the country with a temporary work visa in December 2008.
Mark Barlaan is Peter Barlaan’s son. Before Mark and Mary Barlaan came to the United States, they were in a romantic relationship with each other, and that relationship continued after they came to the United States.
On September 9, 2009, the day after Peter Barlaan became a U.S. citizen, he married Mary Barlaan, his son’s girlfriend. On October 25, 2011, Mark Barlaan and Winnie Barlaan were married. The indictment alleges that the defendants entered into these marriages for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining legal permanent residence and citizenship for Mark and Mary Barlaan. The indictment further alleges that Peter Barlaan paid Winnie Barlaan several thousand dollars in exchange for her marrying Mark Barlaan and cooperating in the immigration proceedings.
Under U.S. immigration law, aliens married to U.S. citizens are given priority in the granting of immigration benefits. By marrying U.S. citizens, Mark and Mary Barlaan could obtain these benefits faster and without meeting the requirements applicable to persons who are not married to U.S. citizens.
The indictment alleges that the individuals made false statements on documents submitted to immigration authorities in an attempt to conceal the fact that they had committed marriage fraud, and that false statements were made in interviews and during other encounters with immigration officers.
On June 5, 2013, Mary Barlaan became a naturalized citizen of the United States. The indictment provides notice that upon a conviction for obtaining naturalization by fraud, Mary Barlaan’s citizenship will be revoked.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and USCIS. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arnold B. Corsmeier.