Acting United States Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow filed an indictment charging William Matthew Tex Price (31, Cocoa), April Coleen Moore (24, Satellite Beach), Khagan Mushfig Oglu Nabili (24, Azerbaijan), Zafar Bakhramovich Yadigarov (26, Uzbekistan), Valriy Tsoy (33, Kazakhstan), Maria Rogacheva (28, Russia), and Svetlana Vladimirovna Shakhramanyan (28, Azerbaijan) for their alleged involvement in a marriage fraud ring operating out of Brevard County from 2015 to 2016.
Each faces up to five years in federal prison. Price has also been charged in a separate indictment with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and faces up to 10 years in federal prison for that offense. Denis Yakovlev (40, Russia) and Meghan Toole (28, Cocoa) were previously charged and pleaded guilty for their involvement in this conspiracy.
According to court documents, in October 2015, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations worked with the Brevard County Clerk of the Court to investigate a significant surge in the number of aliens from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and other former Soviet countries marrying U.S. citizens in Brevard County. This led to the arrest of Yakovlev and Toole on July 13, 2016. After his arrest, Yakovlev admitted to introducing approximately 100 individuals to each other over an 18-month period for the purpose of them entering into sham marriages for immigration benefits. Yakovlev claimed that his payment typically ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per sham marriage, and that the American citizens were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 each.
“These criminals conspired to circumvent and exploit our nation’s immigration laws for personal financial gain,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero. “This undermines the very objectives of our immigration laws and services, which are based on the honesty of the people who apply for immigration benefits.”
Last month, Nabili and Rogacheva each pleaded guilty to one count of marriage fraud. Price pleaded guilty to two counts of marriage fraud and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Yadigarov, Tsoy, and Shakhramanyan were arrested on December 7, 2017, in the Eastern District of New York. Moore was arrested on October 15, 2016, and her trial date has been set for January 2, 2018.
In November 2016, Yakovlev was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for encouraging or inducing an alien to reside in the United States, and Toole was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment for marriage fraud.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
Brevard County Clerk of the Circuit Court, Scott Ellis’ said in a statement that his office worked diligently in conjunction with several federal agencies in identifying the fraud and working with authorities during their investigation.