Lawyer gets 186 years for fake marriage scam

February 3, 2012

The three-judge panel that tried and convicted lawyer and notary Kattia Salas, 41, to 186 years in prison called her “a marriage machine.” She was sentenced for performing at least 31 “paper marriages” so that foreigners could get residency, the daily La Nación reported.

Despite the severity of the sentence, Costa Rican law limits the length of prison time to a total of three maximum sentences. That means Salas could get 18 years for falsifying information.

The tribunal added a payment of ₡1 million ($2,000) to be paid to victims in each of the 31 paper marriages named in the conviction, plus another ₡1.2 billion ($2.4 million) for court costs.

La Nación reported that on a single day, lawyer Salas presided over no fewer than seven of the paper marriages. Some of the marriages took Salas less than 10 minutes to register.

For the judges, the testimony of the witnesses in the more than 30 cases was compelling, without malice toward the defendant.

Not all the cases where the victims suddenly found themselves “married” in the eyes of the law were women. In the case of Orlando Ríos of Sarapiquí, his cédula (ID card) was stolen inside his brief case from his car. Six months later, he found himself married to an unknown person.

In almost all the cases, the victims’ cedulas were either stolen or lost. They found themselves married to one of 26 Cubans, four Chinese, a Nicaraguan, a Salvadoran and a British woman. 

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