By Danny Schrafel
A woman accused by the Bronx District Attorney’s office of marrying as many as 10 different men as part of an immigration scam got one of those marriage licenses from the Town of Huntington in 2002, town officials said.
Officials allege Liana Barrientos is currently married to four people – and at one point was married to as many as eight at the same time.
Groom number six – Aliaksandr Paharelau, a native of Czechoslovakia whom Barrientos married in March 2002 and possibly divorced in July 2005 – was the product of a marriage license issued by Huntington Town Hall, Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia said Friday. She noted that the couple got married in Yonkers, and Barrientos claimed it was her first marriage.
“She lied and led no one to be suspicious,” Raia said.
The charges Barrientos face stem from her most recent nuptials to a man in March 2010. In that case she is accused of two counts of first-degree offering of false instruments for filing – for the application for a marriage license and the signed license itself, in which she claims that it was her first and only marriage.
Authorities allege she tied the knot to get non-citizens into the country. She allegedly filed marriage certificates from Westchester to Long Island, most without divorcing her other purported husbands.
Seven of the 10 husbands hail from so-called “red-flagged” countries, which included Egypt, Turkey, Georgia, Pakistan and Mali. In 2006, authorities allege, groom number eight, Rashid Rajput, was deported to Pakistan following an investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force related to threatening statements he made toward the United States.
If convicted, Barrientos faces up to four years behind bars. She has pleaded not guilty.
Raia believes that Barrientos was part of a rush by non-citizens to marry American citizens around the turn of the millennium when immigration laws tightened. Town clerks around the state were “inundated,” and fraud was a factor. It was “common knowledge,” Raia said, that some women were being paid to marry non-citizens.
“This is one of a kind,” Raia, the town clerk since 1982, said of the most recent case. “I had heard several years ago of one [case] being bigamy, but is there such a word for 10?”
Raia said her staff strictly adheres to procedure in the three-part marriage license application, which includes a sworn affidavit for the applicants, the application itself and instructions for the officiant of the ceremony. If a person is marrying for the first time, they must provide a birth certificate, a photo ID and a fee. Otherwise, they must provide death or divorce certificates to prove the termination of the previous marriage.
Raia can – and does – turn applicants away. Some instances include if they’re caught in a lie during the process or if an applicant is determined to be not “mentally capable of making the decision” to marry. During the earlier rush, Raia’s staff would ask applicants why they came to Huntington if they did not work or live here; however, town clerk’s offices cannot ask for immigration status, she said.
The rigor helps the town clerk’s office be “protective of both parties,” Raia said.