Local News

Soldier, ex-soldier plead guilty to marriage fraud

Posted October 6, 2009 4:20 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2009 2:14 p.m. EDT

— A Fort Bragg soldier and a former soldier pleaded guilty Tuesday to entering into fake marriages with Russian women to move off post and legitimize the women's immigration status.

Sgt. Wesly Farris, 23, and Stephen Schneider, 23, pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenville to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. They will be sentenced in January.

Authorities said Farris, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and Schneider, who is no longer in the Army, married the women in 2005 and 2006, respectively, 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.

Civil marriage ceremonies took place the same day or the day after the soldiers met the women, the indictment states. The women would then return to New York, while the soldiers filed immigration papers for the women and personal requests for increased living allowances from the Army, allowing them to move off post.

Prosecutors said the marriage fraud cost the government at least $200,000 in wages and benefits. Col. Bill Buckner, a spokesman for the XVIII Airborne Corps, said the Army plans to pursue the excess benefits paid to the soldiers.

Svetlana Kaloshina, who married Farris, pleaded guilty in August to making a false statement on an immigration application and is out on bond awaiting sentencing.

Tatyana Urazova, 25, who married Schneider, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. She remains in jail and will likely be deported after sentencing, authorities said.

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

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, and he was discharged after finishing his sentence.

The Manin brothers made their first appearance in federal court on conspiracy charges two weeks ago.