Mass. man admits to six sham marriages


Worcester man says he participated in marriage schemes arranged by others for money.

WORCESTER — A city man admitted in federal court Tuesday to entering into six sham marriages with foreign women over 10 years.

“I just want people to know I’m very remorseful,” Peter J. Hicks, 58, said outside U.S. District Court, where he pleaded guilty to one felony count of marriage fraud.

According to authorities, Hicks married six women from sub-Saharan Africa from 2003 to 2013 in exchange for money. He filed paperwork trying to get four of the women green cards as a result of the marriages, prosecutors said; he failed three times, court records show and attempted to withdraw the fourth application.

Marrying a U.S. citizen does not automatically make someone a citizen. It can increase their chance of getting a green card, since there are no numerical limits on such cards for spouses.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney David G. Tobin, Hicks married African women in 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

While filling out paperwork to get his last wife a green card, Hicks falsely stated he’d only been married once before, Tobin said, when in fact he’d been married five times and was still married to one of the women.

According to an affidavit from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, officials could only find evidence of Hicks divorcing three of his wives, including two he divorced over an eight-day period in 2011.

The affidavit shows Hicks, saying he found God, told agents who approached him about the marriages in 2014 that he wanted to “set the record straight.”

He admitted to participating in sham marriages arranged by others for money, and said he was also paid to recruit others to do the same.

It is unclear from the record whether authorities charged the people who paid Hicks. The office of U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling did not answer an email query on the topic.

Marriage fraud is nothing new in Worcester. A 2010 T&G report detailed the city clerk’s suspicions that hundreds of such marriages were taking place annually. Several prosecutions have taken place here, but there have not been mass arrests.

One city woman admitted to three simultaneous fake marriages at once in 2012, while another received a year in prison for such a scheme in 2014.

Darlene Haynes, who was killed here in 2009 for her baby who was cut from her womb, had married a man for money. Her murder was not related to the sham marriage. The T&G reported in 2014 that it did not appear the government had prosecuted those who arranged the marriage.

Hicks, who spoke with a reporter after his guilty plea, said he is a good person who made poor decisions.

“I’m just a person trying to get my life together,” he said, adding that he is caring for his 3-year-old son after the boy’s mother died several years ago.

Hicks declined to speak about those who paid him for the marriages or say how much he received.

“The help they gave me at the time, I needed,” he said, adding that he did not mean to say his conduct was excusable.

“I will accept the consequences,” he said, which could include a jail sentence of up to five years, although Tobin said the guideline sentence for Hicks would be four to eight months.

Hicks is scheduled to be sentenced in early December.

— brad.petrishen@telegram.com

On Twitter: @BPetrishenTG

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