"The special agent in charge of the investigation stated that the arrests send a message that any Navy personnel who engage in this type of criminal activity will be pursued and held accountable."
There is an open secret for members of the military. Entering into the union of marriage will increase the funding they get for their service, and the more dependents one has an obligation to, the more funding that they will receive. This incentive creates a market for fraudulent marriages.
The incentives offered by the military are given through their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), a U.S. financial entitlement based on geographic duty location, pay grade, and dependency status.
There also is Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) for members of the military stationed outside of the U.S., but it is structured differently than BAH. OHA helps cover the cost of rent, utility and recurring maintenance expenses, and Move-In Housing Allowance (MIHA), according to the Defense Travel Management Office.
The MIHA covers the upfront average move-in costs, acquisition fees with a dollar for dollar reimbursement, and security risks in high crime or high threat areas as determined by the Department of State.
All of these allowances allotted to members of the military increase with the number of dependents they have, so it’s not an uncommon practice to pursue marriage in an effort to increase your own financial wealth.
The tens of thousands of dollars that soldiers stand to gain from a marriage have even resulted in Craigslist ads for contract marriages by members of the military.
The U.S. Army has investigated these marriages, but could not provide any statistics on how often it occurs nor specifics regarding their investigative tactics. Those that are found guilty of them could face administrative and punitive actions
The U.S. Army also has released a statement stating that the branch does not question a martial decision without cause and that a soldier must possess all necessary legal documents verifying the marriage before receiving any sort of benefits
The Department of Defense has conducted investigations regarding marriage validity and fraud, but claim that because of the fact that marriage validity is a matter of state law, it falls under the military branch’s jurisdiction to investigate and enforce administrative and punitive action against those found guilty.
Additionally, the U.S. Marine Corps also has conducted its own investigations into the marriages of several of its members. These marriages could rope in people outside of the couple themselves, who also face charges if found guilty in conspiracy to allow fraud to take place.
The U.S. Navy has investigated and prosecuted a fraudulent marriage ring, which resulted in 33 people scamming housing allowance from the military and being charged in federal court.
The special agent in charge of the investigation stated that the arrests send a message that any Navy personnel who engage in this type of criminal activity will be pursued and held accountable.
These marriages were intended to gain financial wealth and to provide green cards to those without U.S. citizenship. If the non-military spouse does not have U.S. citizenship, green cards often provide the incentive to enter a contract marriage. It also creates an instant alert to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and opens an investigation into the validity and commitment of the marriage.
Many of the decisions made in cases of military marriage fraud are difficult to prove, and even after convictions, some can be overturned.
This new market creates the need for military attorneys specializing in BAH fraud and OHA fraud, increasing the risk of dissolution of the union and divorce. These attorneys can also be the same ones that can handle the divorce proceedings and can offer assistance during these difficult situations.