Ipswich: ‘Bride’ in national sham marriage scam jailed

Tatjana Stepanova-Tatanashvili

Tatjana Stepanova-Tatanashvili - Credit: Archant

An Ipswich ‘bride’ embroiled in a nationwide sham marriage scam has been jailed for 12 months.

Tatjana Stepanova-Tatanshvili, of Norwich Road, admitted committing an act to facilitate the commission of a non EU person into the country.

At the 34-year-old’s Ipswich Crown Court sentencing prosecutor Michael Crimp said: “The allegation is one of being involved in a so-called sham marriage - the effect of which is to give people residence and rights to live and work within the EU who otherwise would not be entitled to such rights, by marrying an EU national.”

Stepanova-Tatanshvili married Walid Ahmed Elemezin on March 14, 2010, in an Islamic ceremony held in Peterborough.

Mr Crimp said the Egyptian-national then applied for residency in the UK which was granted based on his marriage to Stepanova-Tatanashvili.

The court heard the sham marriage emerged during a countrywide investigation into other sham marriages by the UK Border Agency. As a result a number of people have been arrested involving people higher up the chain.

After Stepanova-Tatanshvili was arrested she claimed to have been tricked into the wedding, but subsequently admitted her part in the scam.

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Mr Crimp said border officials do not know what happened to Mr Elemezin.

Stepanova-Tatanshvili was arrested in Ipswich at the beginning of this year when another conspirator’s mobile phone was checked following their arrest.

The court was told she was supposed to receive £2,000 for marrying Mr Elmezin. However, it is understood that although she originally said she had not received any money she subsequently said she had been paid £500 of what was promised.

Richard Conley, representing Stepanova-Tatanshvili, said his client had come to the UK to work legally. She wanted to escape relative poverty in Lithuania and for a time she found agricultural employment in Suffolk.

However, she lost her job and then found it difficult to get another one.

Mr Conley said: “She found herself in a position of poverty, struggling to pay rent, and struggling to buy essentials. To an extent she herself is a victim of some organised criminals.”

The court heard Stepanova-Tatanshvili was recruited into the sham marriage scam through an acquaintance in the ex-pat community in Suffolk.

She was put in touch with the scam’s orchestrator and was then contacted by them with an offer of easy money.

Today Stepanova-Tatanshvili’s housemate Justyna Ignaczynska is due to be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court for the same offence. The 27-year-old married Amer Mohammed Abd el Rasoul in Peterborough in 2010.

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