Twelve more individuals were indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in the US state of Kentucky for their roles in a fraudulent marriage ring involving US citizens and Cambodian nationals, a US newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Lexington Herald-Leader, citing a press release from US Attorney David Hale’s office in the US District Court’s Western District of Kentucky, said the individuals were from the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana. They were charged with marriage fraud, conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud, the paper reported.
To date, 35 individuals have been indicted for their involvement in the fraudulent marriage ring.
Twenty-three people were originally indicted in mid-April. On June 22, 25-year-old American Justin Michael Martin of Kentucky, one of the men originally indicted, pleaded guilty to marriage fraud and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud for his involvement in the ring.
According to information from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, Mr Martin traveled to Cambodia in 2004 after being contacted by three people, including a Cambodian national he married in 2007.
ICE previously said some individuals involved in the fraudulent marriage ring were allegedly given all-expenses paid trips to Cambodia, where they were offered sexual services.
An official in the US Embassy’s public affairs section said yesterday he was unaware of the latest indictments and could not comment on the case.
Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state with the Interior Ministry, said yesterday that marriages between Cambodian nationals and foreigners must be reviewed by several agencies before being approved. She said the individuals must first contact the foreigner’s embassy, then present documentation of the marriage to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which reviews and forwards the information to the Interior Ministry. “We check the validity,” Ms Bun Eng said.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, seconded Ms Bun Eng’s assessment, saying stronger anti-trafficking laws in Cambodia have strengthened the country’s ability to crackdown on fraudulent marriages and the foreigners who broker them.
“A fake wedding, that is equal to trafficking a person,” Lt Gen Sopheak said.