Mistrial declared in case of Mexican actress charged with marriage fraud
The prosecution of a Mexican actress and her American husband charged with marriage fraud ended in a mistrial Friday afternoon.
Jurors informed U.S. District Court Judge Manuel L. Real that they could not reach a verdict in the case of Maria Fernanda Romero Martinez and Kent Stuart Ross, both in their late 20s, who married in 2005.
Officers arrested them in April, charging them with getting married solely so Fernanda Romero -- her stage name -- could obtain legal residence in the United States.
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.
Romero and Ross had pleaded not guilty and reportedly left the Los Angeles courthouse Friday afternoon arm in arm.
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 a bogus marriage. Foreign spouses of U.S. citizens are eligible for legal residency status, work permits and eventually citizenship.
Authorities said Romero and Ross filed several documents containing false statements, such as claims that they lived at the same address. According to prosecutors, Romero also filed documents allegedly containing false statements as to how long she had resided in the United States
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.
-- Howard Blume