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Feds: Northwest suburban immigration consultant and associate arranged phony marriages

A northwest suburban immigration consultant and her associate arranged phony marriages to aid immigrants in becoming U.S. citizens, federal prosecutors said in announcing their indictments on Monday.

Teresita Zarrabian, owner of Zarrabian and Associates, an immigration consulting business in Arlington Heights, was paid $8,000 to $15,000 by clients for arranging false marriages to U.S. citizens between 2005 and 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Zarrabian paid Michael Smith a portion of the money she received from foreign national clients for his help in recruiting U.S. citizens as “spouses,” federal prosecutors said.

Zarrabian promised to pay $5,000 to the U.S. citizens to get married, federal prosecutors said. The couples would then be married in Las Vegas, Nev., with Zarrabian and Smith taking photos and “other steps” to make the marriages appear legitimate.

She would meet with the couples to discuss how to make the marriages appear legitimate during interviews with immigration officials, federal prosecutors said.

The pair arranged at least four fake marriages and attempted to arrange a fifth between a foreign national and an undercover agent, prosecutors said.

Zarrabian, 60, a naturalized citizen who lives in Des Plaines; and Smith, 41, a U.S. citizen who lives in Bellwood, are each charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and visa fraud, officials said.

Zarrabian was separately charged with obstruction of justice for trying to persuade a U.S. citizen who was involved in a sham marriage from talking with law enforcement, federal prosecutors said.

A seven-count indictment was returned Jan. 31 and unsealed Thursday, when the pair were arrested. They pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Chicago and were released on their own recognizance.

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