IMPERIAL SAND DUNES, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  The U.S.-Mexico border fence snakes over sand dunes on September 28, 2016 in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation center, California. Without daily removal of sand, which drifts against the fence, the dunes would cover the fence and undocumented immigrants and smugglers could simply walk over it. The border stretches almost 2,000 miles between Mexico and the United States. Border security and immigration issues have become major issues in the U.S. Presidential campaign.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Immigration violations: The one thing to know
01:15 - Source: CNN

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Federal investigators allege he married six African women

He was getting paid in immigration scheme, complaint says

CNN  — 

A Massachusetts man married six African women over a decade – but not for love, federal officials say.

Worcester resident Peter Hicks, 57, wed a series of women from sub-Saharan Africa between 2003 and 2013 to help them obtain legal status in the United States, federal prosecutors said.

According to a criminal complaint, Hicks confessed to investigators that he was paid for the marriages by men who arranged them.

Hicks was charged with one count of marriage fraud this week, according to the complaint unsealed by the US attorney’s office Tuesday. It alleges that things started unraveling in 2014, when federal law enforcement agents uncovered evidence that Hicks married six foreign national women and filed for immigration benefits for four of them.

“During a routine interview as part of his application for benefits for a non-citizen spouse, Hicks admitted to marrying three of the women solely to obtain immigration benefits for them,” the complaint alleges.

After his confession, Hicks had another interview with immigration officials in January 2015, and allegedly confessed to making money from the fraudulent marriages, according to the complaint.

“Hicks admitted that he was involved in marriage fraud for approximately 13 years, and that he received payments to marry undocumented African women and to find willing United States citizens to marry illegal aliens for the purpose of allowing the women to establish legal status in the United States,” the complaint alleges.

During the interview in January 2015, the complaint says, Hicks showed investigators multiple photographs of couples he claimed were in fraudulent marriages, arranged by the men who paid Hicks to marry the undocumented women.

In one of the incidents, the complaint alleges, Hicks was still married to one woman at the time of his marriage to another one.

“Hicks also fraudulently claimed on an immigration form submitted on behalf of one of his spouses, that he had only one former spouse and that he had only petitioned for immigration benefits for the one former spouse, when, in fact, Hicks had actually been married five times and submitted requests for immigration benefits for a number of his former spouses,” the complaint states.

Hicks made his initial appearance in federal court in Worcester on Tuesday. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 dollars.

Information on his attorney was not immediately available.