SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — The wife of a man accused of conspiring with San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook plead guilty Friday to immigration fraud charges.
Ontario resident Mariyah Chernykh, 26, admitted entering into a sham marriage with Enrique Marquez Jr., who is facing charges of conspiring with Farook in the December 2, 2015 attack at the Inland Regional Center, according to federal prosecutors.
After pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy, perjury, and false statements, Chernykh faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Chernykh is the second person to plead guilty in what prosecutors say was an immigration fraud scheme uncovered shortly after the San Bernardino attack, which left 14 dead and several others seriously wounded.
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Syed Raheel Farook, the brother of deceased San Bernardino attacker Syed Rizwan Farook, pleaded guilty on Jan. 10 to taking part of the conspiracy. The third defendant in the case – Tatiana Farook, the wife of Syed Raheel Farook – still faces charges contained in a grand jury indictment and is scheduled to go on trial on March 28.
Prosecutors say starting in late 2014 and continuing through Feb. 2016, Marquez conspired with Chernykh, Syed Raheel Farook and wife Tatiana by get a visa for Chernykh by arranging and carrying out a fraudulent marriage between Chernykh, a Russian citizen, and Marquez, a U.S. citizen.
In court Friday, Chernykh admitted that she made false statements in immigration documents, that she paid Marquez for his participation in the scheme, and that she made additional material false statements during interviews with FBI special agents, according to prosecutors.
“Today’s guilty plea and the broader circumstances of this case are a powerful reminder about the serious consequences that can result when people lie or use false information to obtain an immigration benefit,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “Not only do such actions corrupt the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system, but they can directly or indirectly put the safety of the American people at risk.”
Chernykh is due back in court for sentencing on Nov. 20.