Tuesday, June 10, 2008
7 News Investigations: Bigamists
A South Florida family is accused of making bigamy a family affair. Four members of the family and one of their friends are accused of trying to cash-in by tying the knot dozens of times. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has this investigation.
WSVN -- One way illegal immigrants try to stay in this country is by marriage to a U.S. citizen. If that U.S. Citizen is marrying for love, it's OK. If it's for money, it isn't.
And now, four members of the same South Florida family plus an associate have been charged with marrying for money, repeatedly.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle: "They take what is supposed to be a beautiful institution, marriage, love, romance, and they turn it into a scam."
Loida Rodriguez married the most, according to court records.
She is accused of getting married 12 times in the last four years and never getting a divorce. Her brother, Jesus Ruben Rodriguez, has been charged with marrying five times with no divorces. Authorities are trying to find both of them.
Kathy Fernandez Rundle: "And now you have the rest of this group of charlatans."
Their sister, Eurice Rodriguez was in bond court after surrendering on three counts of bigamy. The judge ordered her release through the pre-trial release program. Her daughter, Eunice Lopez, was arrested late last year on nine counts of bigamy. Eunice's boyfriend, Rodneys Gonzalez, was charged with three counts of bigamy.
Rundle says the family reportedly charged $10,000-$15,000 per marriage. That would mean they made somewhere between $320,000 to $480,000 in a five-year period. This kind of crime not only violates state law, it raises national security concerns.
Kathy Fernandez Rundle: "This whole thing is really appalling when you think about it because it touches so many of those integral parts of us as a society."
Experts say these suspects got caught because the marriages were all in the same county. But since there is no state or national registry bigamists often get away with multiple marriages.