Myrtle Beach area real estate agent, contractor among those charged with marriage fraud

dwren@thesunnews.comJanuary 2, 2014 

A Myrtle Beach area real estate agent and a former building contractor are among four people who will be arraigned in federal court next week on charges that they conspired to violate immigration laws by arranging a sham marriage so a Russian woman could obtain U.S. citizenship.

Eric Emond, a real estate agent, is accused in an indictment of accepting money in exchange for marrying Ekaterina Bagrova of Russia. Emond then falsely represented to immigration officials that the marriage was legitimate and that he and Bagrova were living together as husband and wife, according to the indictment.

Fernando Gomes, a former contractor, is accused of arranging the sham marriage and paying Emond. Gomes – whose contractor’s license has expired, according to the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation – is a Brazil citizen living in the United States.

Emond, Gomes and Bagrova are charged with one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, which carries a maximum fine of $250,000 and a five-year prison sentence. Bagrova also is facing a felony charge of making false statements to an immigration official, which also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 and a five-year prison sentence.

Also charged is former Myrtle Beach real estate agent Cristina Hursh. Hursh allegedly helped recruited Emond to enter into the sham marriage. She is facing one felony charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

According to an indictment, Emond and Bagrova were married in Horry County on Dec. 21, 2005. Court records show the two were divorced in September 2011.

Whenever an immigrant marries a U.S. citizen and then applies for citizenship, immigration officials require the couple at various times during the process to prove that the marriage is legitimate and that both parties intend to live together. Emond and Bagrova are accused of making false statements to a federal official during a Dec. 11, 2006, interview to determine whether Bagrova should be allowed to adjust her immigration status and stay in the United States. Hursh is accused of making false statements on an Aug. 19, 2008, affidavit supporting the validity of the marriage.

According to the indictment, Bagrova also made false statements in 2012 when she filed an application for naturalization and later told a federal official that she had resided with Emond at his home in the Brandy Mill subdivision in Socastee.

The arraignment in this case will be at 10:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Florence before Magistrate Judge Kaymani West.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.

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