A Portugese woman living in Corby has been jailed for three years and four months for her part in a plot to arrange a string of sham marriages.
Ana Rita Teixeira Ferras, 27, from Highbrook, appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Monday, December 22, where it was heard that she was a key player in setting up at least three fake marriages in 2012 between West African men and EU nationals living in the Corby area.
Even Ferras herself took part in a sham marriage in 2007, marrying a man at Southwark Registry Office.
The court was told Ferras produced false payslips to use to support applications to the Home Office for leave to remain in the UK for people who had taken part in the sham marriages.
Police caught up with Ferras in September 2012 when she was arrested – but she then fled home to her native Portugal.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued and used to return her to the UK in October 2014.
In court, she pleaded guilty to four counts of facilitating a breach of immigration law.
Inspector Andy Radcliffe, from Home Office Criminal Investigations, said: “Ferras thought she could abuse and manipulate the immigration system to her own criminal ends. She was wrong and is now behind bars.
“The use of the European Arrest Warrant was vital in being able to return Ferras to the UK and bring this investigation to a successful conclusion.
“Thanks to this, and the dedication and meticulous hard work of the Home Office Criminal Investigation team, she has now been brought to justice.”
This sentencing was part of a wider Home Office investigation into sham marriages called Operation Zarco, which has previously seen beneficiaries of the sham marriages which Ferras arranged receive custodial sentences.
Several of Ferras’ accomplices were also been convicted at Northampton Crown Court as part of the operation.
Another Portugese woman, Jessica Nunes, 21, from West Glebe Road in Corby, was handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence in April 2013 when she was arrested as part of Operation Zarco. Nunes had taken part in a sham marriage with a man called Oluwasegun Omoniyi, who received a 44-week prison sentence for his part in the plot after he pleaded guilty to attempting to obtain leave to remain in the UK by deception.
Samantha McDonald, 26, from West Glebe Road in Corby, was handed a 14-month suspended prison sentence in November 2013 after she admitted facilitating a breach of immigration law.