Mexican-born actress Fernanda Romero is learning the real meaning of marriage. Romero was married to Kent Ross in June 2005 -- a marriage that is now on trial to determine whether fraud and foul play is involved, according to CNN.
Better than any soap opera Romero has appeared in, the actress was "turned-in" by a photographer ex-boyfriend that claims Romero told him about the deal with Ross, specifically that she paid her husband $5,000 to marry her in order to accelerate her immigration status. The complaint also alleges that the couple never lived together during the entire duration of their marriage, both individuals have dated other people, and lied on multiple occasions on immigration forms and to federal agents. The 28 year-old Romero and Ross now face up to five years in federal prison if convicted.
Romero's marriage fraud case is unique among cases of the same nature in that usually the proceedings are brought by immigration and customs officers, and not as a criminal case. Though the evidence is the same, a typical marriage fraud case ends in deportation rather than jail time. The lawyers for Romero and Ross tell the love story a little differently: "This is the case of two young people. In love but naive to the complexities of marriage. The two young newlyweds traveled down different paths that, at times during their five year marriage, left them separated both geographically and emotionally."
Marriage-based visas are one of the quicker ways to gain citizenship, and it is difficult for courts to discern whether a marriage is a sham. Some factors an immigration court considers include: joint bank accounts, love letters, marriage certificates, and interviews with the couple. In this case, the trial will come down to the same conclusions necessary to grant a marriage visa in the first place -- is it love? For Fernanda Romero, she'll have some explaining to do when it comes to separate houses and lovers, but the allegations of a jealous lover exposing the marriage serve to complicate the trial that is expected to last 4 days and hear testimony from as many as 14 witnesses.
- Trial of Actress Accused of Sham Marriage Set to Begin (Associated Press)
- Marriage Fraud: 10 indicted in Sham Marriage Scheme (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Deportation (FindLaw)
- Marriage (provided by Law Offices of Susan Millican O'Brian & Associates, P.S.)
- Family Based Immigration (provided by Courtney L. Campbell)