Marines accused of sham marriages for fiscal gain

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — Three Southern California Marine corporals are facing charges of defrauding the government for entering into sham marriages for financial gain, the military said Saturday.

The scam was hatched when a lesbian couple, one a Marine and the other a civilian, decided to live together off base, according to 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

The female Marine found a male Marine willing to get married, allowing them to collect a $1,200 housing benefit, Dooley said. The civilian woman also eventually married a male Marine and collected government funds, according to officials.

The corporals, assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton, will face fraud and larceny charges, Dooley said, adding that other charges could come later. It was not clear whether the civilian woman would face charges, but the military would not have jurisdiction in such a case, Dooley said.

"It doesn't matter what their sexual preferences are, if they're violating the law and making fraudulent use of government money, they will be held accountable," Dooley said.

In addition to the charges, the three Marines could have to pay back $75,000 to the military.

The female Marine, Cpl. Ashley Vice, told San Diego's KGTV-TV Friday that she and her partner, Jaime Murphy, were forced to enter sham marriages because the military does not provide allowances for unmarried couples and they couldn't afford to live off base without the extra money. She and her partner only wanted to "be a family," Vice said.

Only married couples are eligible for the monthly housing allowance.

Even after the military officially drops its ban against openly gay or lesbian members, same-sex couples, even if married, will still not be eligible because of a federal law defining marriage only as between a man and a woman, the Los Angeles Times said Saturday.

Vice told the station she and the other corporals, Jeremiah Griffin and Joseph Garner, could face at least a year in the brig at Miramar, since none of them can afford to pay the government back.

In addition to jail time, Vice said she will likely be demoted in rank from corporal to private.

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