sentencing Credit: Stock image | Pixabay

A Nepalese man was sentenced Wednesday to one month in prison for paying a Maine woman to marry him so he could stay in the country and continue working.

Eilove Shrestha, 28, of Cupertino, California, pleaded guilty in July in U.S. District Court in Bangor to one count each of conspiring to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud.

In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker sentenced Shrestha to two years of probation and ordered him to pay a $4,000 fine. The judge ordered Shrestha to report to prison on Feb. 26. Until then, he remains free on $5,000 cash bail.

Walker said that as a result of his convictions, Shrestha could be deported to Nepal in spite of his otherwise clean record.

“You are well educated, bright and industrious,” Walker told Shrestha in imposing the sentence. “But you went into this with your eyes wide open. You knew exactly what you were doing. When faced with the right and the illegal way of doing it, you chose the illegal way.”

Shrestha apologized for his actions and expressed concern for his mother, who owns and runs a restaurant in Saratoga, California, and does not speak English. Her son works there with her.

“If I’m not there, the restaurant has to be closed and that will have an impact on family,” he told Walker in asking for probation rather than jail time.

Defense attorney Verne Paradie Jr. of Lewiston told Walker that in 2018 Shrestha had temporary protective status because of political unrest in Nepal.

“The [Trump] administration canceled that and he panicked,” the lawyer said.

Shrestha was living in North Carolina and looking to marry an American woman about 18 months ago because his work visa was set to expire on June 24, 2018, according to court documents. On June 13, 2018, he emailed four people he had found online and told each of them he was interested in getting married in order to gain permanent resident status, also known as a green card, in the U.S.

Marena Mushero , 29, of Hampden agreed to marry Shrestha for a fee of $13,000 to be paid in installments, according to court documents. She had advertised online that she was willing to marry someone seeking a green card for a fee.

In emails, text messages and phone calls, the two traded information and agreed to be married June 25, 2018, in Brewer by a notary public, court documents said. They took pictures of the ceremony at a Bangor-area restaurant and at the motel where Shrestha stayed for two days to help document the marriage’s legitimacy. Before he left Maine, they opened joint bank and cell phone accounts.

Shrestha wired about $3,000 to Mushero between June 21 and July 25, 2018, according to court documents. In early August 2018, Mushero was arrested on a probation violation for a felony theft charge. She brought the sham marriage to the attention of authorities on Aug. 6, 2018.

He stopped paying her while Mushero was serving a 10-month sentence at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham for violating her probation, court documents said. The two also stopped communicating after her arrest.

Mushero was sentenced in April to five years of probation after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to commit marriage fraud.

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, Shrestha faced up to six months in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Ruge recommended Shrestha be incarcerated for two months. Paradie urged Walker to sentence his client to probation as he did Mushero.