PORTLAND — A Russian national who arranged a sham marriage with a Maine teenager in an effort to remain in the United States was sentenced Thursday to the 11 months he spent in jail while awaiting trial.
Alexander “Sasha” Gormatov, 34, responded to an advertisement placed on Craigslist in 2012 by a 17-year-old Naples girl who was seeking work in an effort to free herself from an abusive relationship, according to court records.
A few months later, when the girl turned 18, Gormatov paid her to marry him so he could become a lawful, permanent U.S. resident.
Gormatov, who entered this country on a student and employment visa in 2009, later successfully adjusted his status to that of an academic student visa by attending Southern Maine Community College in South Portland in 2010.
After arranging to marry Raeanna Johnson when she turned 18, Gormatov quit school. By November 2012, when he failed to reenroll at the college, his immigration status changed to one who was unlawfully present in the United.States.
In January 2013, in keeping with their agreement, Gormatov and Johnson made a series of materially false statements on immigration documents that Gormatov later filed while seeking a formal adjustment to his immigration status, according to U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee.
In April 2013, the couple was interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in South Portland, during which, following Gormatov’s instructions, the two falsely claimed to be living as husband and wife.
Following the interviews, based on that fraud, Gormatov obtained conditional status as a lawful permanent U.S.resident.
In January 2014, Johnson gave birth to a child she conceived with a man who was her actual live-in boyfriend, but she put Gormatov’s name on the birth certificate, in keeping with their plan.
In March 2015, Gormatov filed a petition in order to remove the conditions of his permanent U.S. residence accompanied by a copy of the child’s falsified birth certificate.
In January 2017, after learning he was under investigation by federal authorities, Gormatov left this country and returned to Russia, then failed to return within one year.
In May 2019, when Gormatov sought to return to the United States, he falsely represented he was the father of Johnson’s child on a form he filed in Latvia, according to McElwee.
Gormatov was charged in December 2020 with three felonies, including conspiracy to commit visa fraud, making false statements to a government agency and extraterritorial visa fraud.
Two of the crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison, the third, up to 10 years in prison.
During the two-day trial last year, Johnson testified that Gormatov had told her to “just trust him” because such sham marriages happen all the time and “nobody cares.”
On Thursday, Gormatov appeared in U.S. District Court where Judge Torressen imposed a sentence of 333 days Gormatov served at Cumberland County Jail as well a one year of supervised release and a $2,000 fine.
“In my view, the right thing would be to have you deported” back to Russia, Torresen told Gormatov.
But McElwee had told the judge earlier during the sentencing hearing that federal authorities have prioritized for deportation defendants who have been convicted of committing violent crimes and that Gormatov’s deportation likely wouldn’t be immediate.
“I cannot control immigration,” Torresen said.
A half-dozen men, most of them from Freedom House, a men’s sobriety home in South Portland, spoke in support of Gormatov, saying he was always polite, helpful and punctual.
A man who identified himself as Gormatov’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor said Gormatov had turned his life around.
“He’s not the man he used to be,” the man said.
The owner of a construction company said Gormatov had been working for him for more than a year as a trained carpenter and was “very responsible and very dependable.”
Judge Torresen said she was concerned about unexplained banking transactions before Gormatov’s arrest involving hundreds of thousands of dollars during a time when he had no known employment.
“This has been a cloud hanging over this case since the beginning,” Torresen said Thursday, calling the mysterious financial transactions the “elephant in the room.”
While on supervised release, Gormatov must not have any alcohol or illegal drugs and must participate in a program of drug and alcohol abuse therapy and can be tested for alcohol and drugs use.
He must submit to his probation officer monitoring his use of the internet, a restriction which his attorney, Peter Cyr, had argued shouldn’t be imposed.
Torresen noted that Gormatov had used the internet to establish contact with Johnson on Craigslist and had used mobile banking for “a significant amount of money flowing in and out of Mr. Gorbatov’s bank accounts.”
Gorbatov declined to make a statement before Torresen imposed sentence.
He filed notice after the hearing that he may appeal his conviction and sentence.
Two years ago, Johnson signed an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to two felonies, including conspiracy to commit visa fraud and false statements to a government agency and was sentenced to time served.