Woman’s convictions put status in peril

A woman who obtained Caymanian status through her marriage to a Caymanian may be in danger of losing it after being convicted of entering into a fraudulent marriage and other immigration offences.

Magistrate Grace Donalds found Monica Emener Rivers guilty after hearing evidence from William Rivers including his statement that that he had married Monica for $500.

Defence Attorney Lloyd Samson asked for a financial penalty only, in light of the consequences to follow from the conviction.

The Immigration Law states that the right to be Caymanian may be lost when the marriage is deemed by the Caymanian status and permanent Residency Board to be a marriage of convenience.

It is understood that the matter will be brought to the Board’s attention with a request for revocation because of the convictions.

The evidence of William Rivers was that after the ceremony with Monica in 1996, ‘she went her way and I went mine.’

Questioned by Crown Counsel John Masters, he said he and Monica never dated, but married a few weeks after meeting. He said the marriage was arranged by a friend who told him she knew of a lady who wanted to stay in Cayman and asked if he would help her.

He said they never lived together or slept together, nor did they give each other rings.

He did see her quite a few times after the ceremony to get money.

Asked why he had married her, Rivers said for convenience – ‘get money to support my drug problem.’

Cross-examined by Mr. Samson, he disagreed that his drug habit interfered with his memory, but agreed that it sometimes caused him to do things he would not ordinarily do.

Mr. Samson suggested that Rivers had told Monica that they wouldn’t be able to live together because he had an old grandmother he had to spend considerable time with. Rivers disagreed.

The attorney further suggested that Rivers signed Monica’s application for status in 2005 because it was a real marriage and Rivers had thought it proper to assist her. He agreed he had signed.

Mr. Masters then handed up records of interview between Immigration officers and Monica Rivers.

He emphasised certain of her answers. She did not remember if there was a discussion of living arrangements, she did not remember who introduced them, she was not sure of the wedding date and didn’t know who the witnesses were.

In summarising the case for the Defence, Mr. Samson said it was a matter of whom the magistrate believed. Mrs. Rivers relied on the records of interview; she had answered the questions put to her. In instances where she had not answered, Mr. Samson asked that her right to silence be respected.

In addition to entering into a fraudulent marriage, Rivers was charged with making a false statement and failing to answer fully and truthfully when questioned by an Immigration officer.

The magistrate summarised the evidence and gave her verdict. She noted that William Rivers’ evidence on oath was unchallenged. Mrs. Rivers declined to give evidence on oath. She found the charge of fraudulent marriage proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The false statement was in the affidavit with the application for status – that Mr. and Mrs. Rivers had never lived apart beyond the limits set out in the Immigration law. The evidence in fact was that they never lived together and the defendant was guilty.

The magistrate also pointed to answers in the interview that satisfied her that charge had also been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

After the verdicts, the defendant became upset. She denied ever giving Rivers money and said they did sleep together. She said Rivers had given this evidence against her because she didn’t tell him when she was going to Jamaica.

‘If all that is true, you should have told your lawyer,’ the magistrate told her.

Rivers said her memory was pitchy-patchy and she couldn’t get everything at the same time.

In passing sentence, the magistrate said she had been troubled by the offence of fraudulent marriage: ‘Either you’re married or you’re not.’ She suggested the offence of marriage of convenience.

Mr. Masters suggested the marriage was fraudulent because Rivers was trying to circumvent the provisions of the Immigration Law.

In mitigation, Mr. Samson asked the court to consider Rivers’ age, multiple health concerns and modest income.

The potential penalty for entering into a marriage of convenience is a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment fore one year. The last case anyone could remember occurred some 10 years ago; that defendant pleaded guilty and was fined $500, the magistrate heard.

She imposed a fine of $750 for the fraudulent marriage, $100 for making a false statement and no separate penalty for failing to answer fully and truthfully.