Woman Accused of Arranging Sham Weddings For Immigrants Pleads Guilty

A Massachusetts woman accused of arranging dozens of sham marriages between immigrants seeking green cards and American citizens has pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors say 58-year-old Maria-Helena Knoller pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Springfield to marriage fraud and shielding illegal aliens. She faces up to 15 years in prison at sentencing scheduled for July 8.

Authorities say when they raided Knoller's Holyoke home in 2008, they found $117,000 in cash and a bag containing 61 gold wedding bands, as well as a ledger that appeared to list more than 50 couples.

Prosecutors say she charged mostly Brazilian immigrants between $6,000 and $12,000 per marriage, giving some to the American citizen and keeping the rest.

Knoller's lawyer says his client is a legal immigrant from Brazil with no prior criminal record.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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