Military says marriage scams not much of a problem in Europe
Army, Navy and Air Force officials say the issue of sham marriages is not much of a problem among servicemembers in Europe.
Cases typically involve stateside members, such as the recent cases in which sailors are accused of arranging sham marriages with foreign women to increase their military housing allowances.
Navy legal officials in Europe recall no cases involving sailors tried for issues related to such scams, according to Scott Campbell, a Navy Region Europe spokesman.
“The Navy does not go after so called ‘marriage fraud,’ but instead prosecutes based on [Basic Allowance for Housing] fraud, which equates to larceny,” Campbell said.
Lt. Col. Rich Spiegel, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe, said the command is not aware of any current court-martial cases involving fraudulent marriages. But U.S. Army Europe and Installation Management Command-Europe “have mechanisms to assist in identifying and investigating potential fraud including marriage fraud,” he wrote in a statement to Stars and Stripes.
Ramstein Air Base, the largest U.S. military base in Europe, has not had any cases of marriage fraud in the past year, according to Capt. Todd Fanniff, the 435th Air Base Wing’s assistant staff judge advocate.
The Air Force does not have a specific regulation on marriage. But the military could charge a servicemember with larceny if he or she obtained extra pay or benefits fraudulenty. They also could be charged with false official statements, Fanniff wrote in an e-mail. In addition, it is prohibited for servicemembers to get married to get better housing or other benefits.
The military overseas has in place checks-and-balances to address, and even aid, servicemembers who want to marry non-U.S. citizens — with keen oversight by commanding officers.
For example, “all U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel stationed worldwide, afloat and ashore, who desire to marry foreign nationals residing in Europe or Africa, shall obtain prior written authorization from the appropriate Commander …,” reads a portion of the 10-page Navy Region Europe instruction dated Sept. 25, 2007. Command authorization is not required if marrying a U.S. citizen.
Commanders, in turn, are required to advise members that no arrangements for a wedding can go forward without first receiving the authorization. Furthermore, they must be informed about U.S. immigration laws, verify financial evidence of members pay grades E-6 and lower “to ensure that the prospective dependent(s) will not become a public charge,” and provide access to marriage counseling, among other duties.