WRAL Investigates

Brothers accused in Russian brides case must stay in jail

Posted October 13, 2009 1:16 p.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2009 2:30 p.m. EDT

— Two brothers accused of arranging marriages between Russian women and Fort Bragg soldiers must stay in jail while they await their trial scheduled for January, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Senior U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan said Alexander "Sasha" Manin and Pavel "Pasha" Manin pose a serious flight risk, especially since Pavel Manin had an overseas flight booked on the day federal immigration agents arrested him.

"The risk of flight here is compelling," Flanagan said. "This is very serious criminal conduct."

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bowler said the brothers had multiple overseas contacts and cash flow that could help them flee the country if they wanted.

Attorneys for the Manin brothers argued that their clients, who are Russian immigrants, love the U.S., served in the U.S. military and would not leave the country.

Federal immigration agents said the brothers devised a complicated web of fraudulent marriages between Russian women and Fort Bragg soldiers so the women could obtain 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.

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

The brothers themselves were also involved in fraudulent marriages and were able to become naturalized citizens after marrying American women, prosecutors said. A woman who married Alexander Manin told agents that she is a lesbian and was just trying to help her friend get citizenship.

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.

“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 four soldiers who are accused of marrying Russian women, plus the Manin brothers' marriages, amounted to at least $200,000 over several years, according to prosecutors.