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Scam pair sentenced

26 October 2012

GRIMSBY MINSTER

Exploited: Grimsby Minster

Exploited: Grimsby Minster

TWO men who organised dozens of sham marriages in churches in Lincolnshire have been given six-year prison sentences.

For at least four years, the pair used a network of contacts to recruit brides from EU states to marry men who were prepared to pay to help them stay in the UK illegally.

Jose Tavares De Oliveira, a Portuguese national, and Weal Lewizy, an Egyptian, would book ceremonies at Grimsby Minster, and at St Aidan's, Cleethorpes. They would hire wedding dresses, and acted as witnesses.

Both men denied conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration laws in the UK, but Mr Lewizy failed to attend the trial at Peterborough Crown Court, which ended last week, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Mr De Oliveira's partner, Portuguese-born Patricia Pimenta, who was one of the bogus brides, was jailed for eight months.

The court heard that the inquiry by the UK Border Agency's Criminal and Financial Investigation Team was continuing. Twelve brides have been arrested so far.

In the scam, De Oliveira identified potential brides, mainly Portuguese women, who were willing to marry for money, while Lewizy found the grooms. Seven of the "brides" gave evidence of fake weddings between 2007 and 2010.

After the trial, the Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey, the Ven. Jane Sinclair, said: "We very much regret that a parish church was exploited in this way. . . We continually review how our clergy are trained, and further training has been organised in association with the UK Border Agency, and the police. Any abuse of the opportunity for church marriages is taken very seriously."

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