There's a stunning crackdown on an alleged marriage scam involving American sailors -- a scam that's raising serious national security concerns.
A group of Russian brides are accused of marrying U.S.--not for love, but rather to stay in the United States.
More than 30 alleged bogus husbands and wives were arrested Wednesday, charged with marriage fraud. Investigators with the Virginia Beach Police Department say the sailors were in on the scam which ultimately cost the Navy about a half-million dollars.
"What we see are small pockets of friends forming this conspiracy," says Deputy Chief J.A. Cervera
The sailors, who were based at the Norfolk Naval Station, allegedly met the women at bars or restaurants in nearby Virginia Beach, or were set up by Navy buddies. In some cases, documents show, the couples married within hours of meeting.
As pay-off, the sailors are accused of getting thousands of dollars in housing allowances they weren't entitled to. The women--mostly from Russia and the Ukraine and who had arrived on work or student visas--got fast-tracked to citizenship. Some of them received military identification from the U.S. Defense Department, exposing a vulnerability to national security, says Norfolk's NCIS Chief Samuel Worth.
"In these cases we don't know where they come from or what their intentions are."
Five of the accused sailors served on the U.S.S. Iwo Jima, two others on the U.S.S. Wasp. Those on active duty were taken from the ships to face charges in Virginia.
The sailors and their brides have not yet entered pleas.