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Eleventh Circuit Dismisses Case of Marriage Fraud Due to Statute of Limitations

In the case of United States v. Yunier Moreno Rojas, Rojas–a U.S. citizen of Cuban origin–married a Soledad Marino, an Argentinian national on April 23, 2007. After an investigation in 2009 by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal government indicted Rojas and Soledad of marriage fraud in 2012. The defendants moved to dismiss the indictment due to the five year statute of limitations that had already expired. The district court denied the motion, and sentenced Rojas to 24 months of probation. In the appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the lower court’s decision was reversed based on expiration of the statute of limitations.

Each case regarding immigration law provides a greater understanding of the legal system. In the case of U.S. v. Rojas, it became evident that time is of great importance. Statutes of limitation provide greater protections for defendants because charges must be filed within a reasonable time period when documentation, witnesses and memories remain intact and accessible. Prosecuting authorities may wish to extend these statutes of limitation, but as U.S. v. Rojas shows, there are often rigid time constraints.

In this case, Rojas and Marino married in order to provide Marino with U.S. residency. During the course of the investigation by ICE officials, discrepancies led investigators to confront both defendants independently. Consequently, both Rojas and Marino both admitted that the marriage was fraudulent. Rojas signed a statement conceding to the fraud.

The government did not file indictments against Rojas and Marino until April 27, 2012, more than five years after the marriage had occurred. The defendants submitted a motion to dismiss for expiration of the statute of limitations, which was denied because the fraud was not completed until investigators had questioned the defendants in 2009.
Under appeal, the Eleventh Circuit cited Toussie which states that Congress has prohibited extension of statute of limitations unless expressly provided by law. This court also found that, although the defendants did file for immigration benefits in 2009, the crime of marriage fraud was completed on April 23, 2007. The government’s argument that the fraud continued past the date of marriage was deemed as a violation of Toussie. The Eleventh Circuit then reversed the lower court’s ruling and granted Rojas’ petition to dismiss the case.

Immigration law is often a distinct branch of the legal system, but it is rooted in the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution provides certain powers to the U.S. Congress that are foundational to a wide variety of legal cases. In U.S. v. Rojas, the authority of the government was curtailed by express prohibitions against extending the term of statute of limitations. Although the crime of marriage fraud was not in question, the legal case against the defendants was flawed due to violations of the defendants’ rights.

The Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC, has extensive experience in family-based immigration. Please call us for a confidential consultation at (512) 215-5225.

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