A Nepalese man admitted Monday in U.S. District Court in Bangor that he paid a Maine woman to marry him last year so he could stay in the country and continue working.
Eilove Shrestha, 29, of Cupertino, California, entered his plea the day before a jury was to be selected for his trial, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Shrestha pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud.
A sentencing date has not been set.
He remains free on $5,000 cash bail.
His attorney, Verne Paradie of Lewiston, told U.S. District Judge Lance Walker on Monday that his client had mistakenly believed that if he went to trial, his chances of deportation would be less. But Paradie said his client would face less prison time by pleading guilty than if he had gone to trial and been convicted.
Shrestha was living in North Carolina and looking to marry an American woman last summer because his work visa was set to expire June 24, 2018, according to the prosecution of events to which he pleaded guilty. On June 13, 2018, he emailed four people he found online and told each of them he was interested in getting married in order to gain permanent resident status, also known as a green card, in the U.S.
Marena Mushero, 29, of Hampden agreed to marry Shrestha for a fee of $13,000 to be paid in installments, according to court documents. She had advertised online that she was willing to marry someone seeking a green card for a fee.
In emails, text messages and phone calls, the two traded information and agreed to be married June 25 in Brewer by a notary public, court documents said. They took pictures of the ceremony at a Bangor-area restaurant and at the motel where Shrestha stayed for two days to help document the marriage’s legitimacy. Before he left Maine, they opened joint bank and cell phone accounts.
Shrestha wired about $3,000 to Mushero between June 21 and July 25, according to court documents. In early August, Mushero was arrested on a probation violation for a felony theft charge. She brought the sham marriage to the attention of authorities on Aug. 6.
He stopped paying her while Mushero was serving a 10-month sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham for violating her probation, court documents said. The two also stopped communicating after her arrest.
Shrestha was indicted by a federal grand jury in November. He pleaded not guilty and prepared for trial.
Mushero was sentenced in April to five years of probation after pleading guilty in December to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.
She was scheduled to testify at Shrestha’s trial but was not in court Monday.
It could not be determined if the couple is still married.
Shrestha faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the recommended sentence is between zero and six months, with probation a possibility.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Ruge declined to comment on the case. It is the practice of the federal prosecutor’s office not to comment on pending cases.