Marriage Fraud in a "He Did It" or, Maybe, "She Did It" Case

By David North, September 24, 2012

I have suggested previously that everyone involved in immigration-related marriage fraud, both citizens and aliens, are bad actors, but the case last year of Police Sergeant Lynn Benton takes the cake.

You see, Benton:

  1. As a woman in 1992, engaged in marriage fraud with a male Brazilian illegal alien;

  2. As a man, nearly 20 years later, was fired from a suburban Portland police force for the marriage fraud and for watching pornography on the police computer; and

  3. As a man, was accused of murdering Debbie Higbee Denton, his estranged wife.

Benton, in both gender roles, is a U.S. citizen, as was his late wife; the Brazilian was not identified in either court records or news stories, but he must have been an alien or he would not have married Benton.

The marriage in the fraud case, dissolved by divorce in 1996 according to the Daily Beast, would probably have been forgotten had Benton's relationship with Debbie Denton not led to her murder.

It was gruesome one. According to the news story, Susan Campbell, a woman hired by Benton, shot Ms. Benton in the back with a .25 caliber handgun; that did not kill her, but a subsequent battering and a strangling did, and Benton is suspected of that.

In another news account, an officer of the Gladstone, Ore., police force said in court: "We found that Susan Campbell entered into an agreement to receive $2,000 from Lynn Benton to kill or have killed Debbie Higbee."

It is not clear, at this writing, whether or not a trial has started in Benton's case, but shortly after the murder Denton was fired by the police force that had employed him, not for the suspicion of murder, but on the marriage fraud and pornography charges (which apparently were easier to prove).

An Interview with USCIS FDNS
Architect Don Crocetti on Marriage Fraud:
View the Full Interview

Between the Brazilian marriage and the one to Debbie Higbee he went through a sex change; according to another news account he "completed gender reassignment procedures and is now legally a male."

In three other cases we noted that murders were associated with marriage fraud charges; in those three, the linkage between the two crimes was much more closely tied than in the case of Denton. For more on these three cases, see my blogs "Immigration Marriage Fraud and Murder, a Recurring Combination", "Murders Twice Linked to Immigration Marriage Fraud in D.C. Area", and "The Death Penalty for Immigration Marriage Fraud?". Interestingly, in those three cases, as with Denton, the alleged murderer was a citizen; in one of the cases, which took place in Canada, the murderer was a Canadian citizen.

Meanwhile, much further west, a considerably less bizarre marriage fraud case has arisen this month.

Zahidul Islam has been hauled into federal court in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for a phony marriage to a U.S. citizen woman identified only as C.C.A.; there is no violence, at least not yet, in this case, and Mr. Islam has taken the precautions of titling his car with his "wife" as well as his cell phone account, and buying life insurance on her behalf. Nice touches, but criminal ones. There is, unusually, nothing in the indictment about either his nationality or his age.

Whether Islam, like Denton, had a brush with the law in the 1990s is not clear. There is an FBI wanted poster for a Zahidul Islam, a 57-year-old Bangladeshi, who is sought for "involuntary deviate sexual intercourse" in Philadelphia in 1996. That Islam was practicing medicine in Philadelphia at the time. Perhaps that is a common name, perhaps not. There is no reference in the CNMI indictment back to the Philadelphia one.

Related Topics:

Users of PACER, the federal courts' document system can see the full CNMI indictment at 1:12-cr-00018 document 8 and the redacted Eastern District of Pennsylvania one at 2:97-mj-00570-1; the latter is named "USA v. ISLAM." The FBI notice is here.

The policy point of all this is that marriage fraud routinely inflates the number of criminal immigrants coming to the United States, and while the numbers are probably relatively small (and are certainly unknown) there are no lobbies or other political forces supporting these movements as there are defending just about every other kind of immigration, legal or illegal.

Calling for more vigorous and more systematic enforcement of the immigration and marriage laws thus is somewhat easier than, say, demanding better enforcement in the workplace — such as the occasional, and commendable, Bush-era raids on factories noted for their large illegal alien work forces.

Nobody objects to rooting out marriage fraud, the problem is how much time and energy are allocated to it.