Eight convicted of taking part in cross-Border sham weddings
The Irish Times
May 22, 2008
SEVEN WOMEN and a man were yesterday put on probation for one year for their involvement in a series of cross-Border sham weddings to non-EU nationals from China and Nigeria.
The eight co-defendants, all of them from Derry, pleaded guilty to taking part in the sham weddings at registry offices in Derry, Coleraine, Letterkenny and Stranorlar between February and August 2004.
The ringleader of the operation, Nigerian Alexander Success, from Waterfoot Park in Derry, is currently serving a four-year jail sentence. His accomplice, Akeem Shittu, from Lahunda Crescent, Blanchardstown in Dublin, and who is also Nigerian, was jailed last March for 3 years. Both men have been recommended for deportation to Nigeria when they are released from jail.
At the Crown Court in Derry prosecutor David McDowell told Mr Justice Seamus Treacy that seven of the eight defendants were paid between 1,800 and 2,500 to go through with the weddings. Their spouses were either Chinese nationals in Ireland on student visas or Nigerian nationals who were failed asylum seekers, he said.
Mr McDowell said that none of the Nigerians or Chinese has been traced since the weddings, which were in breach of EU immigration laws. One of the defendants travelled to Coleraine, met her husband-to-be, walked into the registry office, got married, walked around the corner and got paid, he said.
Mr Justice Treacy was told that all of the eight co-defendants, seven of whom had previous convictions, were in vulnerable positions either financially or emotionally when they became involved in the scam.
The prosecutions followed a joint PSNI-Garda investigation.
A defence counsel said his client would have to regularise her marital status if she wished to get married.
She will have to go to the Republic of Ireland to institute legal proceedings of some kind to have her marriage in the registry office in Letterkenny declared void. Were she to re-marry without doing that, she would be committing the offence of bigamy . . . he said.
Mr Justice Treacy said the defendants all entered sham weddings to facilitate the residence of non-EU nationals in breach of immigration laws. You were pestered by Alexander Success who seduced you with the lure of money. He was astute in targeting vulnerable people to further his own interests, he said.
The co-defendants, all with addresses in Derry, are Wendy Allen (25), from Grouse Hill Park, Carol Muldoon (25), from Rosskeen Park, Leanne Melaugh (25), from Rathmore Park, Sabrina Cole (31), from Summer Meadows View, Kieran McCafferty (32), from Cromore Gardens, Pamela ODonnell (25), from Craigbrack Road, Melissa McShane (23), from Distillery Close and Corrina Murray (21), from Barrs Lane.