Three Soldiers Implicated in Scheme Involving Russian Brides

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Wilmington, NC—Two United States Army paratroopers are facing up to five years in federal prison after taking part in an illegal marriage scam with women from Russia, according to prosecutors.

The arrangement provided United States citizenship for the women, who were immigrants from Russia living in New York, while the soldiers benefited by receiving housing allowances in excess of $600/month and permission to live off-base. The sham marriages are said to have cost the government over $200,000 in benefits and wages.

Sergeant Wesley Farris and Sergeant Stephen Schnieder, both 23, agreed to marry Svetlana Kaloshina and Tatyana Urazova, respectively, after filing immigration applications for the women. A third man, Sergeant Jason Hawk, married Anya Ivanova but does not face federal charges. He was prosecuted instead by military authorities, fined $4,000, imprisoned for four months, demoted from the rank of sergeant to that of private, and discharged from the military.

Also involved in the scandal are two brothers from Kazakhstan, a Central Asian nation which was once part of the Soviet Union, and which remains home to a large Russian population. Alexander Manin came to the United States in 1998 to go to school, and joined the Marine Corps shortly after the terrorist attacks of 2001. He served three years, receiving an honorable discharge. His brother, Pavel, came to the U.S. in 2001 and enlisted in the Army in 2005. While stationed at the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., Pavel Manin cooked up a scheme with his brother wherein they solicited Russian women who were seeking immigration status. Each woman paid between $1,000 and $5,000 to be set up with an American solider who wished to live off-post but was ineligible to do so because of his status as a junior enlisted solider. After the fraudulent marriages, the Russian women returned to New York City, where they filed immigration papers stating that they were married, while the men were allowed to live off post and given a housing allowance.

The Manin brothers are in custody in Edgecombe County, N.C. And will go to trial next year on charges of visa fraud, marriage fraud, conspiracy and stealing public money. They were denied bail after having been deemed a flight risk, as Pavel Manin possessed an airline ticket back to Kazakhstan at the time of his arrest.

Farris and Schneider await sentencing next year after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Court records indicate that the two may testify against the Marin brothers as part of their plea agreement. Urazova and Kaloshina also pleaded guilty on other charges and are awaiting sentencing.

 

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