A gang were caught flying Lithuanian women into the UK to take part in fake weddings giving illegal immigrant grooms false means to stay in the country.
Valentina Kezeliene, 53, of Edgware, and her daughter Lina Kezelyte, 33, of Burnt Oak, were sentenced to two and a half and four and a half years jail each at Croydon Crown Court on Friday (Mar 10).
Their scam saw the pair and their accomplices facilitating 26 false marriages for prospective immigrants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Nepal with Lithuanian brides.
Mohammed Jemaldeen, 33, of Stanmore, was responsible for sourcing the grooms and received a four year sentence from the same court.
The grooms were found to be paying up to £7,000 for the gang to carry out the weddings, which would then enable them to apply for leave to remain in the UK by marrying brides from the European Economic Area.
Investigations began in 2013 with reports of Lithuanian women flown into the country with the flights all being paid for by the same people.
Immigration Enforcement interrupted a sham wedding in Glasgow and it was discovered payments to and from bank accounts of the brides and grooms were linked to Kezelyte.
Kezelyte claimed she was running a legitimate dating agency, but her Skype account showed she spoke with a contact about the ages of women available and set out the price for a marriage.
A computer seized from Kezeliene’s house contained a crib sheet of questions which may be asked in immigration interviews, along with suggested answers.
Jemaldeen’s laptop contained photographs of identity documents and copies of Home Office letters relating to visa applications.
Financial records showed large amounts of money being paid into the bank accounts of Kezelyte, Kezeliene and Jemaldeen.
Finchley resident Ruta Sperskaite, 25, was given a two-year suspended sentence and 200 hours of unpaid work and had been used to assist in the weddings as a hairdresser, photographer or witness.
She was also found to have allowed the gang to use her bank account to move money around in the laundering process.
Martin Huxley, Assistant Director, Criminal & Financial Investigations said: “Far from the claimed ‘dating agency’ this was an organised criminal operation which arranged for individuals to cheat their way into the UK.
“This group was motivated by financial gain with clear attempts to disguise the criminal source of their income, we will not allow people to abuse our immigration laws in this way.”
Proceedings have been started under the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate profits which have resulted from the activity.
Work is ongoing to identify any individuals who may have illegally obtained leave to remain in the UK as a result of the case and they will face removal from the UK.