WRAL Investigates

Soldiers' jobs put Russian wives under investigation

Posted October 7, 2009

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— Tatyana Urazova’s MySpace page is full of American experiences – visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, seeing Las Vegas and spending nights on the town.

However, federal agents say the 25-year-old from Kazakhstan is part of a web of Russian women who had fraudulent marriages with Fort Bragg soldiers so they could get U.S. citizenship.

The benefit for the soldiers, agents said, is that they could move off post and get extra money in their paychecks for being married.

A rigged marriage is a significant crime, according to immigration officials, especially when it deals with soldiers and the potential for a threat to national security.

Tatyana Urazova (courtesy of MySpace) Soldiers' wives under investigation

“We would take a similar look at nuclear power plants, airports – where they staff employees in those critical areas. We have to take a look. We can’t be wrong,” said Tom O’Connell, an agent in charge at the Raleigh office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While there's no evidence that the women were after national secrets, the Army is out some cash. Extra pay and benefits for three soldiers who are accused of marrying Russian women amounted to at least $200,000 over several years, according to prosecutors.

In 2005, Urazova married Stephen Schneider, who was a 19-year-old Fort Bragg soldier at the time, according to court records.

Urazova pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. She was being held in the Edgecombe County jail and will likely be deported after her sentencing, according to her attorney, Woody Webb.

In June, when charges were filed in the case, immigration officials pulled her off a plane bound for Vienna, Austria, at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

“She knows what she did was wrong, and she knows that she’s got to pay the consequences,” Webb said. ”She is here and wanted to make a life better for herself than in her home country.”

Schneider, who is no longer in the Army, pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenville on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.

Authorities said Schneider and another man, Sgt. Wesly Farris, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, married Russian women after meeting them through brothers Alexander "Sasha" Manin and Pavel "Pasha" Manin.

The brothers collected fees of $3,000 to $5,000 from the women for arranging the marriages, according to an indictment.

Farris was 19 when he married Svetlana Kaloshina, court records showed. He pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. She pleaded guilty in August to making a false statement on an immigration application and was out on bond awaiting sentencing.

A third woman charged in the case, Anya Ivanova, is a fugitive, and authorities said they believe she is in Canada.

Ivanova was in a fraudulent marriage with a third Fort Bragg soldier, Jason Hawk, who was convicted at court martial in February. Hawk was demoted from sergeant to private, fined $20,000 and confined to jail on post for four months. He was discharged from the Army after finishing his sentence.

The Manin brothers are scheduled to have hearings in federal court next week.

12 Comments

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  • email140 Oct 8, 2009

    Enlisted single servicemen have been doing this for along time. This case is not new, but extremely old news. Because it's the only way they can afford to move off base and live like a human. I joined the service in 1979 and it was common knowledge for GI's to get married just to move off base and make more money. Military pay for single enlisted people is bad. Normally it's not an option for a single service person to live off base, unless your're an officer in the military. Day to day living in barracks is not fun. Previous news events was just a single example of how fun barracks life is. Plus the daily inspections of your room and the extra duties you while living in barrack. So many servicemen get married to move off base. It's a bad reason to get married, but there are no options. Give our enlisted soldiers options and better pay. Also treat our veterans with respect by not subjected them to terrible health care the VA provides (like the Fayetteville VA Hospital).

  • Space Mountain Oct 8, 2009

    Who cares? People get married all the time that shouldn't.

  • dlb800 Oct 8, 2009

    I agree with some of you. We allow illegal aliens in here, but we get upset when American troops do this?

  • Worland Oct 8, 2009

    Marriages of "convenience" are fairly common in the military. Usually it's a mil to mil marriage so both of the youngsters can move out of the barracks to a place off base. Citizenship would also rank high on the list for these marriages (fraudulent or otherwise).

    Money is typically not the motivation for these marriages. The only additional pay you receive for being married is a modest increase in your housing allowance. Other than housing, you don't get additional money for being married or having kids.

  • readme Oct 8, 2009

    It is a serious problem in my opinion that married soldiers are treated better and paid more than a single soldier with the same rank and time in service. They get to live off-post or in on-post family housing insteead of the barracks. I can guarantee you there is a huge difference in quality of life, and there is a huge incentive to get married for many reasons besides love! Throw in the extra tax-free allowances and there is even more incentive.

  • jaredg Oct 8, 2009

    what soldier wouldn't want a hot russian mail order bride?

  • pls qt whining Oct 8, 2009

    I agree with Moth - give our troops a break.

  • 6079 SMITH W Oct 8, 2009

    Since when did we enforce our "immigration laws"? This is a joke, right?

  • iamyeary Oct 7, 2009

    U.S. soldiers also marry American women for financial gain. A former co-worker (was overheard) saying that her ex-husband and father of her 2 boys, got remarried to another woman so he could continue to be paid the salary of a married man but was not living with the new wife.

  • moth Oct 7, 2009

    Its okay if tens of millions of illegals come pouring over the border to degrade our schools, bankrupt our hospitals and take away jobs but heaven forbid if our soldiers should engage in a little fun. They have been doing this since before World War II and no one ever complained about it. Now we have "Nation Building" bases in over 170 countries worldwide and the govt is shocked, shocked I tell you to learn this is happening.
    They should go after the REAL criminals and leave the soldiers alone.

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