Federal prosecutors say more than 80 marriages between Indian foreign nationals Panhandle residents were about more than love at first sight.
An Indian foreign national and an Altha woman had both plead guilty in the scheme to unite U.S. citizens with Indian nationals who hoped to gain immigration benefits, prosecutors wrote in a news release.
Ravi Babu Kolla, 47, an Indian foreign national residing in Panama City, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. On Tuesday, his co-defendant Krystal Cloud, 40, of Altha, Florida, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for marriage and visa fraud conspiracy after pleading guilty on December 28, 2018.
Between February 2017 and August 2018, Kolla operated an immigration marriage fraud business in Bay County that recruited U.S. citizens to marry Indian foreign nationals to gain immigration benefits.
The majority of the Indian foreign nationals overstayed their Visas or Student Exchange Visitor Program requirements and were unlawfully residing in the United States. The investigation identified over 80 fraudulent marriages that were performed in Alabama as part of Kolla’s scheme, officials wrote.
Cloud is a U.S. citizen who participated with Kolla in the marriage fraud business. After entering a fraudulent marriage in October 2017, she began recruiting U.S. citizens to marry Indian foreign nationals. Cloud directly recruited or participated in the recruitment of 10 or more U.S. citizens from the Panama City area and Calhoun and Jackson Counties.
She also helped gather personal information so Kolla could create fraudulent immigration forms in order for the Indian foreign nationals to remain in the United States, prosecutors wrote.
Kolla faces a maximum of 5 years in prison for conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud and a maximum of 20 years in prison for money laundering conspiracy. She is scheduled to be sentenced in May.