A Jamaican woman who took part in a massive marriage scam in the West Midlands was today sentenced to 12 months imprisonment at Birmingham Crown Court.
“This was a serious and organised attempt to facilitate illegal entry into the UK. All of the people who have been convicted were in it for either personal profit or to secure a UK passport” – Gail Adams, Regional Director, UK Border Agency
Verona Walters, 33, of Birmingham New Road, Coseley was convicted after pleading guilty to conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law.
She was arrested on 16 September 2009 at a training centre in Wolverhampton as part of an operation carried out by the UK Border Agency’s immigration crime team and West Midlands police.
Walters was one of five women, all Jamaican nationals, arrested by immigration and police officers during a series of raids across Birmingham and the Black Country.
The swoops in September were part of an ongoing investigation into ‘marriages of convenience’, otherwise known as sham marriages, organised by Venrick Clarke.
The 50-year-old, from Oldbury, was last year jailed for nine years at Birmingham Crown Court, which was told he organised 38 sham marriages over six years.
Clarke used sophisticated forgery and threats of violence to organise weddings so that immigrants could claim citizenship. He would pay the would-be British wives and husbands in drugs or cash and even organised fake guests, a reception, photographers, clothes and wedding rings to maintain an air of authenticity. But some of the couples are believed to have had no contact with each other before or after the wedding.
Seven members of the same family were jailed earlier this year for taking part in the sham marriages.
Patricia Williams, aged 61, from Dudley posed as a guest at several of her children’s ‘weddings’ and was jailed for two and a half years on 3 October 2009.
Her 38-year-old son Jason posed as the bridegroom at one ceremony and was sentenced to 12 months on the same date.
Natalie Williams, aged 26, Luke Williams, 24, Brett Williams, 31, and David Williams, 32, and Amanda Williams, who live in Dudley, Rowley Regis and Handsworth, were jailed in June after admitting their involvement in the scam.
Gail Adams, UK Border Agency Regional Director, said:
‘This was a serious and organised attempt to facilitate illegal entry into the UK. All of the people who have been convicted were in it for either personal profit or to secure a UK passport.
‘Our Immigration Crime Teams across the West Midlands are cracking down hard on this type of abuse of our immigration system.
‘Today’s sentence and those before it send out a clear deterrent to others thinking of perpetrating immigration crime here in the UK. We will seek to deport Verona Walters to Jamaica as soon as she has served her sentence.’
The UK Border Agency has already removed from the country one of the other four women arrested in September and is taking steps to remove the remaining bogus brides from the United Kingdom as soon as possible.
Over recent years the agency has clamped down on sham marriages with suspected sham marriages falling from over 3,500 in 2004 to under 400 in 2008.
Identity cards for foreign nationals are being introduced which will further prevent immigration abuse. Individuals will be locked down to one identity through their facial image and fingerprints.
Source: UK Border Agency