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4 Jacksonville residents born in Philippines plead guilty to immigration fraud offenses

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Four Jacksonville residents who were born in the Philippines have pleaded guilty to immigration fraud offenses.

According to the Department of Justice, Peter Barlaan and Winnie Rabaya Barlaan, who are naturalized U.S. citizens, arrived to the United States in November 2007 on a temporary visitor's visa. Peter Barlaan's son and his son's girlfriend, Mark Barlaan and Mary Barlaan, followed behind them with the same visa in December 2008.

The DOJ said on Sept. 9, 2009, when Peter Barlaan became a U.S. citizen, he married Mary Barlaan, his son's girlfriend.

Peter Barlaan paid Winnie Barlaan several thousands of dollars in exchange for her marrying his son, according to the DOJ, and they were wed on Oct. 25, 2011.

U.S. immigration law allows aliens married in the U.S. priority in immigration benefits, which was granted to Mark Barlaan and Mary Barlaan by marrying U.S. citizens without them meeting the requirements applicable to those who aren't married in the U.S.

The DOJ said the two made false statements on documents submitted to authorities and during interviews in an attempt to conceal the fraudulent marriage.

"Marriage fraud is a federal crime, and can have grave consequences for national security," said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Tampa. "Defrauding the U.S. government is not a victimless crime."

Mark Barlaan and Winnie Barlaan pleaded guilty to marriage fraud. They each face up to five years in federal prison.

Peter Barlaan pleaded guilty to immigration document fraud and Mary Barlaan pleaded guilty to obtaining U.S. citizenship by fraud. They each face up to 10 years in federal prison.

According to the DOJ, Mark Barlaan and Mary Barlaan agreed to leave the U.S. following any legal proceedings.