Thursday, September 25, 2008
7 News Investigations: Bigamist Plea
Two members of a family are accused of unholy matrimony. Prosecutors say they took advantage of illegal aliens wanting to stay in the States by marrying them. Seven News first revealed the activities this summer. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the latest.
WSVN -- Twenty-seven-year-old Eunice Lopez married nine men and didn't divorce any of them. Her boyfriend, 36-year-old Rodneys Gonzalez, married three women and didn't divorce any of them.
Judge Mark Leban: "Folks, you're both charged with multiple counts of bigamy."
And they have admitted it to Judge Mark Leban. According to prosecutors, they're members of a family of bigamists who charged $10,000 to $15,000 a pop to marry illegal immigrants who wanted to get legal status.
Judge Mark Leban: "The court will adjudicate you each guilty of each count. That means you will have felony convictions. For Mr. Gonzalez, three convictions. For Mrs. Lopez, nine convictions."
In exchange for the guilty pleas, each got two years probation, fines and an order to pay to have each of their bogus marriages dissolved. Eunice's mother and uncle and aunt are all facing similar charges. They may have married for a love of money, but the state says they could have put us all at risk.
Terry Chavez, Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office: "We are very concerned about what they did. Their illegal acts go even to the security of our country, so they will be watched very closely. I'm sure ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) will be doing their part as well."
But her attorney says Eunice Lopez represents no threat.
Robert Lamons: "Eunice is a very simple woman, and the motivation was certainly not in any way dangerous to the country or the community."
Eunice's mother and her uncle are expected to face the judge next week. They're facing another eight counts of bigamy.
Carmel Cafiero: "Would you like to talk with us about why you were marrying these people and how much money you made?
Eunice Lopez: "No, no thank you."
A final family member is on the run. Authorities suspect Loida Rodriguez, who is facing nine counts of bigamy, has fled to Cuba.