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Alleged Marriage Scam Operator Arrested

SACRAMENTO, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Federal officials arrested a man in Sacramento who is allegedly the mastermind behind a bogus marriage scheme, authorities say.

Sergey Potepalov was arrested last week on immigration fraud charges, The Sacramento Bee reported Monday.

Potepalov allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars from Russian and eastern European nationals for setting up marriages to American nationals and making them candidates for citizenship in the United States. Potepalov has arranged 39 sham weddings, investigators say.

Some of the immigrants who sought Potepalov’s service “were successful in obtaining residency in the United States and some were not,” says U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. “For those who did, subsequent proceedings by CIS [Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of Homeland Security] may result in the revocation of their status.”

The arrest of Potepalov and 13 others named as co-conspirators followed a 5-year-long investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, and a crackdown on marriage fraud across the country.

While the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento was getting ready to go public with the Potepalov case, two men in Idaho were sentenced in a fraud wedding case and three members of an Orange County family were charged with assisting in sham marriages in April.

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