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Ad for 'green-card marriage' leads to fraud charges

LOS ANGELES - When 24-year-old Yuliya Kalinina turned to the Internet in search of a husband, she made it absolutely clear what she was looking for in a relationship:

LOS ANGELES - When 24-year-old Yuliya Kalinina turned to the Internet in search of a husband, she made it absolutely clear what she was looking for in a relationship:

"Green Card Marriage - Will pay $300/month. Total $15,000," the Russian national living in Los Angeles wrote in an ad placed on "This is strictly platonic business offer, sex not involved."

Just in case any would-be Romeos weren't taking the hint, she added: "NOT required to live together."

Kalinina's direct approach was very attractive, drawing the attention not only of the man who would marry her but also that of agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

After more than a year of what federal prosecutors alleged was a sham marriage, Kalinina and her 30-year-old husband, Benjamin C. Adams, were arrested last month at separate residences.

Prosecutors say Kalinina leased Adams a Ford Mustang for his trouble. She also took care of the wedding arrangements: Performing the ceremony was Dmitri Chavkerov, an Internet-ordained minister who also happened to be Kalinina's live-in boyfriend.

"I'd say it's a fairly blatant example of marriage fraud," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis A. Kin, one of the prosecutors in the case.

Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of ICE investigations in Los Angeles, said it was the first criminal case he was aware of in which people allegedly had used the Internet to engineer a fraudulent marriage in hope of obtaining a green card.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Kalinina began advertising in the personal-ads section of Craigslist in October 2005. She posted at least eight ads.

According to the court papers, ICE agents also obtained e-mails from Kalinina's Google account in which she and Adams discussed their potential marriage.

"(H)ow long does it have to last for?" Adams allegedly asked, according to a Jan. 9, 2006, e-mail.

"(M)arriage will take 2-3 years (most likely 2)," Kalinina responded.

The two were married Feb. 17, 2006. In April, they filed paperwork seeking to establish permanent residency for Kalinina.

When confronted by ICE agents months later, the documents state, Kalinina and her boyfriend - the man who had performed the wedding ceremony - admitted the marriage to Adams was a fraud intended to obtain a green card. Marrying her boyfriend would have done nothing to help her immigration status because he is in the country illegally.

Attorney Dale Rubin, who is representing Kalinina, said his client had a pending asylum application but was concerned it would not be granted before she was due to leave the country.

Rubin also accused federal agents investigating the case of sitting back and waiting for his client to commit a crime, rather than warning her that what she was proposing in the ad was against the law.

Kalinina appeared in court Thursday, handcuffed at the waist and wearing leg irons.

If convicted of marriage fraud, she would face deportation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum ordered Kalinina released on $25,000 cash bond and placed her on home confinement with electronic monitoring.