Local News

After marriage fraud, soldier will serve in Afghanistan, not in prison

Posted January 5, 2010 3:36 p.m. EST

— A former Fort Bragg soldier who married a Russian woman in order to get her into the United States and claim higher benefits for himself was sentenced to probation Monday for the fraud.

Robert L. Cooper, lawyer for Stephen Schneider, argued that his client has been recalled to military service in Afghanistan and could only do so if he was not serving time. The judge agreed and sentenced Schneider to five years probation.

Schneider pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.

Authorities said Schneider and another man, Sgt. Wesly Farris, 23, each married Russian women in order to get higher pay and move off post.

After a civil ceremony, the women returned to New York, while the soldiers filed immigration papers for the women and personal requests for increased living allowances from the Army, authorities said.

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.

The women, Svetlana Kaloshina, who married Farris, and Tatyana Urazova, who married Schneider, are in jail awaiting their sentence and will likely be deported, according to their defense attorneys.

The men who arranged the marriages, brothers Alexander "Sasha" Manin and Pavel "Pasha" Manin, face federal conspiracy charges as well.