A former Kansas soldier landed 10 months in prison after getting married to secure additional military benefits and make his Jamaican bride a legal immigrant.
A federal judge ruled against leniency Monday (Oct. 15) saying Joshua Priest's case was not justified. The former Fort Riley private pled guilty in July to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and wire fraud, and testified against his wife, Shannakay Hunter, Boston Globe reports.
"The fact you came in and cooperated is fine, but it doesn’t excuse what you did," U.S. District Judge Monti Belot said during the sentencing hearing. "The worst part of it, Mr. Priest, is that you were a member of our armed forces." Priest also faces nearly $30,000 in restitution charges for the fraudulently obtained housing and subsistence benefits given to married soldiers from the sham.
Testimony at his wife Hunter's hearing revealed that Priest didn't feel his soldier salary of $33,000 was enough, prompting him to cheat the government. Hunter was convicted in August for committing marriage fraud and lying to the government. She will be sentenced Nov. 26.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson called the suggested punishment the ‘‘best course for this defendant who has a bright future otherwise.’’ Priest even offered an apology for his wrongdoing. "I learned my lesson," he told the judge. "I don’t plan to do anything like that again."