A roma gypsy who organised sham marriages in Manchester so that illegal immigrants could remain in the UK, was jailed today.
Meanwhile his accomplice, in scam that one immigration official likened to ‘the plot of a bad soap opera’, remains on the run.
Czech national Milan Cina, 38, admitted to his part in four bogus marriages involving illegal immigrants being charged thousands of pounds so they could remain in the country.
His Polish accomplice, mum-of-four Andzelina Surmaj, has a warrant out for her arrest after failing to appear for sentencing.
Cina, 38, was jailed for five years at Burnley Crown Court today Surmaj, was given three years and eight months in jail in his absence.
Many of the ‘brides’ were targeted outside the school gates, and it is thought they could have been involved in around 40 sham marriages in total.
One immigration official likened it to ‘the plot of a bad soap opera’. The scam netted the pair around £26,000 from just six weddings alone.
Judge Beverley Lunt said: “It is clear from the evidence in this case, this was a well organised commercial enterprise designed to defeat the immigration laws of this country.
“You were both responsible for arranging multiple sham marriages in return for substantial sums of money, being paid by Nigerian men, some of that money was then paid on to the Czech women who were persuaded to take part in these sham marriages.”
They targeted fellow eastern European women desperate for money who Sumaj, 30, met at the gates of Bradford’s Whetley Primary School, where her children were pupils.
The scam involved already-married women getting wed, with inter-changeable brides and witnesses, some already related, at multiple weddings.
Those who took part took photos of themselves posing with strangers on their ‘happy wedding day’ to support their Home Office applications to stay in the UK on the grounds of marriage.
Even Surmaj and Cina acted as witnesses on occasion, and were caught on camera lurking in the background at several weddings.
Surmaj, formerly of Girlington Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, admitted assisting unlawful immigration by organising four bogus weddings.
Cina, formerly of Lister Gardens, Bradford, admitted assisting unlawful immigration by jointly organising the four sham weddings with Surmaj and also pleaded guilty to acting as a witness at another ceremony.
The sham marriages occurred across Manchester and East Lancashire between December 2008 and July 2009.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Today’s sentencing sends a clear message to anyone considering breaking our immigration laws that Britain is no longer a soft touch. Our message could not be clearer – we will not tolerate immigration abuse and offenders will be caught.”
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