Jail for born-again Christian in bogus marriage racket

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The Independent Online
A born-again Christian who ran a bogus marriage racket, paying British men and women to marry immigrants, was sent to prison for three years yesterday.

Charles Dickson, 39, was working as a JobCentre official when he paid poor and unemployed people up to pounds 1,000 a time to marry foreigners - mainly from his native Ghana - in order to deceive the Home Office into granting them rights of residence in Britain.

He had originally denied nine specimen charges of conspiracy to defraud, but a week later changed his plea to one of guilty on seven counts spanning two years from September 1991.

He has admitted arranging a total of 15 bogus marriages.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC, told Southwark Crown Court: ''This was in my judgment a very serious fraud and only a sentence of imprisonment is appropriate for you. It is plain from all the evidence that I have heard in this case that this type of fraud is widespread ..."

The court had been told that Dickson's racket had proved so popular that word soon spread through the unemployed community and in one case a mother, her two daughters, two sons and two close friends went through with the fake matches.

Dickson, of Abbey Wood, south-east London, arrived in Britain in the 1980s and worked at the Department of Social Security and at a JobCentre in Catford while operating the swindle.

Applicants, who were given a pounds 200 down-payment when they initially came forward, were encouraged to get to know their future spouses in order to convince the registrar and other officials of the genuine nature of the nuptials, the court was told. Dickson, who is legally married, would wait outside during the ceremony - which usually took place at Greenwich Register office - while photographs were taken of the couple before handing over the rest of the money.

Police have been to track many of the illegal immigrants, who face automatic deportation.

Although police had been unable to find evidence of profit being made by Dickson, who intends to enter the ministry, Judge Rivlin said it was an "inevitable common-sense inference that you were making some money for yourself".