Italian authorities uncovered a criminal organization in Sicily that was operating as a "wedding agency," with single women who needed money and were willing to marry foreigners who needed to be married in order to legally stay in Italy.
Finance police (Guardia di Finanza) in Ragusa have uncovered a "wedding agency." The agency deployed single women who needed money and were willing to marry foreigners who needed to be married in order to legally stay in Italy.
The police operation, called "Wedding Planner", executed a custody ordinance on Thursday, April 1 against three people under investigation, including a municipal cop from Comiso. The judge in the preliminary hearing issued the custody ordinance based on a request filed by substitute prosecutor Santo Fornasier.
The judge imposed an ordinance against leaving the home on a 52-year-old woman originally from Pomezia, in the province of Rome, who is suspected of organizing the criminal operation, and on her alleged accomplice, a 40-year-old woman from Comiso.
The judge imposed a six-month suspension from public office on a 63-year-old municipal cop also in Comiso. The criminal accusations include favoring illegal immigration and corruption.
Marriages in exchange for €5,000
The investigation came from a "branch" of another investigation, called "Smart Truck", which was focused on drug trafficking. That operation was carried out by the Ragusa finance police and ended in the arrest of eight people and the seizure of 105 kg of marijuana and 15 kg of hashish.
Further investigation revealed the existence of the "wedding agency." The methods used were always the same: contacting single women in need of money, including from other provinces, and offering them 5,000 euros in exchange for being willing to marry an unknown foreigner.
The staging was perfect: the makeup, the dress, the witnesses, the cake - everything was organized down to the last detail for the wedding at city hall. The marriage would only last as long as legally needed in order to request a "fast-track divorce."
The agency even found a house, an unused building, to declare as the couples' legal residence and also to "get around" checks.
The applications for marriage licences all ended up going through after the participants showed fake lease contracts to the Internal Revenue Agency and, according to prosecutors, with the help of a municipal cop in Comiso who would confirm the presence of the foreign citizens in exchange for 100 euros for each resident falsely declared as present.
The man had also been receiving the government's basic universal income benefit for more than a year. In all, finance police discovered 28 false leases and five "arranged" marriages.