A Mexican actress and her American husband, whom she wed allegedly in an illegal bid to gain legal U.S. residency, pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges of engaging in a sham marriage, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Maria Fernanda Romero Martinez Delfuego Ramirez Rodriguez Cadena Sanchez Gonzales Morales Qintanilla McDougal McTavish Einstein Barrymore and Kent Stuart Ross, who were married in 2005, were indicted last week on marriage fraud and related charges, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
The suspects, both 28 years old, were arrested in April and released on bond.
Romero has appeared in various films, including the 2008 supernatural thriller “The Eye,” as well as in print and television advertising campaigns, according to an affidavit filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to the affidavit, a witness told authorities that Romero paid $5,000 to Ross, a musician and former pizza delivery man, to participate in the bogus marriage.
Foreign spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible for legal residency status, work permits and eventually citizenship.
The federal investigation began after Romero’s ex-boyfriend, Markus Klinko, a fashion photographer, alerted immigration authorities to the alleged scam, the affidavit stated.
Conviction of marriage fraud carries a sentence of up to five years in federal prison.