For 13 years, a Massachusetts man married foreign woman after foreign woman, according to federal prosecutors.
By the time federal officials caught on, 57-year-old Peter Hicks, of Worcester, Mass., had married a string of six women from sub-Saharan Africa to help them evade U.S. immigration law, prosecutors said. At least once, according to court documents, Hicks didn’t end a fraudulent marriage before starting a new one.
Hicks was arrested and appeared in federal court in Worcester on Jan. 29, charged with one count of marriage fraud for a string of fraudulent marriages, according to the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, who is prosecutoing the case.
And a confession Hicks made to federal agents in 2014 — at a Dunkin’ Donuts near his Worcester home — helped lead to his undoing, according to court documents.
Before his Dunkin’ Donuts confession, though, Hicks had admitted to federal officials in 2009 that he had married three women to get immigration benefits for them, prosecutors said. Hicks had been applying for immigration benefits for a spouse at the time.
Then, in a second interview later that day, Hicks admitted that he’d been “paid to recruit people for fraudulent marriages,” federal officials said.
Hicks’ story took an even more bizarre turn in December 2014, when federal agents again wanted to interview Hicks. This time, Hicks told the agents he didn’t want them to come to his house — he wanted to meet them at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts instead, according to the complaint.
Once Hicks met up with the agents the Dunkin’ Donuts, Hicks spilled even more, the complaint said.
“[Hicks] stated that he had found God and wanted to ‘set the record straight,’ ” the complaint said, and Hicks then “admitted that he married multiple African nationals in order for them to obtain legal immigration status in the United States.”
Two men, both named by Hicks, had set up the marriages, he told authorities.
Weeks later, during a January 2015 interview, Hicks told federal agents that “he received payments to marry undocumented African women and to find willing United States citizens to marry illegal aliens for the purpose of allowing the women to establish legal status in the United States,” according to prosecutors.
Hicks allegedly filed for immigration benefits for four of the six women he had married.
Hicks also falsely wrote on immigration forms that he’d been married only once and had filed for immigration benefits for a spouse only once before, prosecutors said. But in reality, Hicks had been married five times by that point — and had requested immigration benefits for more than one of those former wives, prosecutors said.
If convicted, marriage fraud is punishable by as much as five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of as much as $250,000, prosecutors said. Federal district court judges impose those sentences.
After his initial court appearance Monday, Hicks was released, according to prosecutors.