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updated: 2/12/2013 9:05 AM

2 charged for allegedly arranging sham marriages

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Two Chicago-area residents have been charged in an alleged scam to arrange fake marriages to thwart immigration laws.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago says 60-year-old Teresita Zarrabian of Des Plaines and 41-year-old Michael Smith of Bellwood have pleaded not guilty to charges of marriage and visa fraud. They were arrested last Thursday. The charges were announced Monday by federal law enforcement officials.

Zarrabian is a naturalized U.S. citizen who owns an immigration consulting business in Arlington Heights.

The indictment claims Zarrabian helped foreign-born clients complete forms to become legal permanent residents on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen, and Smith recruited U.S. citizens to be their spouses.

Prosecutors say the pair arranged at least four fraudulent marriages and allegedly attempted to arrange a fifth.

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