updated 4/11/2006 8:24:29 PM ET 2006-04-12T00:24:29

Eight sailors were charged Tuesday with arranging sham marriages to Polish and Romanian women in a scheme to increase their military housing pay and help the women apply for U.S. citizenship.

An investigation by Naval Criminal Investigative Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that none of the women lived with the sailors they married.

In all, the eight sailors received $35,000 in fraudulent basic housing allowance payments, investigators said. One sailor was allegedly getting $1,836 per month.

The Navy terminated the allowances in November. If convicted of the charges, the seven current and one former sailor from the USS Kennedy and USS Simpson could face up to five years in prison per count.

Basic housing allowance is a tax-free payment that active-duty members of the U.S. military receive to offset their housing costs if they do not live on base. The amount is based on location, marital status and the number of dependents.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the women would face charges. Each paid $6,000 for the weddings to the sailors so they could petition for U.S. citizenship, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Perez.

The NCIS investigation began in September when a Navy petty officer assigned to the Kennedy was approached by a seaman from the Simpson with the opportunity to receive a basic housing allowance for marrying a Polish woman.

The seaman who arranged the marriage was to receive $6,000 from the woman and the petty officer was to receive the basic housing allowance, officials said.

Five of the sailors were scheduled for their first court appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville.

Four of them face charges of conspiracy to enter into a fraudulent marriage and conspiracy to present false claims to the government: Isaac Gordon Bell, 22, of Susanville, Calif.; Joe Conn, 23, of Little Rock, Ark.; Isidro Cruz III, 22, of Newark, N.J; and Horatio Alexander King, 34, of San Diego. The other, Ryan Timothy Dodge, 22, of Joliett, Ill., faces one charge of conspiracy to enter into a fraudulent marriage.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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