CNN International | 10/27/2009 12:00:00 AM
Priest among dozens held in Spain 'marriage scam'
Oct 27--Spanish police have arrested a priest and 33 others in an alleged "marriage of convenience" scam in which mostly Colombians immigrants, linked to drug trafficking, wed Spaniards to get residency papers.
The immigrants paid about $15,000 to wed a Spaniard and gain a fast track to obtaining residency papers, while the Spanish fake "bride or groom" in the scheme earned nearly $4,500.
And the two witnesses required for each civil or church wedding? They collected $300 each, authorities said.
The group allegedly started with marriages of convenience but lately had branched out into forging marriage certificates in order to avoid the wedding itself. That reduced the costs of paying the fake bride or groom and the witnesses, police said.
The forged wedding documents were later presented to a Civil Registry, which officially records marriages.
The suspects face charges of fraud, document forgery, infringing the rights of foreigners and illicit association.
Police began investigating some of the suspects two years ago and last week closed in to arrest the alleged ringleaders in Madrid and in nearby Valdemoro.
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