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Arlington Heights Business Owner Charged with Orchestrating Sham Marriages for U.S. Residency

The U.S. Attorney announced the charges againt Teresita Zarrabian of Des Plaines who owns an Arlington Heights immigration consulting business, she and a second defendant face up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois announced conspiracy charges Monday against an Arlington Heights business owner who allegedly arranged fraudulent marriages between illegal foreigners and U.S. citizens in order for the illegals to achieve U.S. residency.

Teresita Zarrabian, 60, of Des Plaines owns an immigration consulting business in Arlington Heighs, and stands accused of assisting foreign-born clients to complete necessary paperwork to help them marry U.S. citizens, according to a U.S. attorney press release.

The U.S. attorney believes Zarrabian was paid between $8,000 and $15,000 by her clients, whom she also helped to arrange Las Vegas weddings, complete with pictures of the marriage to make them appear legitimate.

A second individual, Michael Smith, a  41-year-old Belwood resident, is included in the indictment. Smith is a U.S. citizen who is accused of helping to recruit U.S. citizen spouses for the illegal foreign nationals. He was allegedly paid $5,000 for his part in the scam.

“Foreign nationals who marry U.S. citizens legitimately may become legal permanent residents of the United States but not if the marriage was a sham solely to evade immigration laws,” according to the release.

The indictment and arrests were announced Monday by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Gary J. Hartwig, Special Agent-in-Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago. 

The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Chicago Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's Fraud Detection and National Security Unit.

“Marriage fraud is a serious crime that exploits our nation’s immigration system and poses a vulnerability to our security,” Mr. Hartwig said. “HSI will continue its efforts to identify and arrest individuals whose actions allegedly show a complete disregard for U.S. immigration laws and undermine the legitimate immigration process,”the release stated.         

Conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and each count of marriage fraud carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  Visa fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the obstruction count against Zarrabian carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. 

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