LONDON (RNS) An Anglican vicar has been convicted of conducting hundreds of bogus marriages in a scam aimed at helping African immigrants gain illegal entry into Britain.
A jury at Lewes Crown Court, in southern England, on Thursday (July 29) found the Rev. Alex Brown had violated immigration laws by “marrying” 383 couples over a four-year period at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the village of St. Leonards-on-Sea.
In testimony during the seven-week trial, the prosecution said Brown, who denied conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration, “knew full well that the vast majority of the marriages were shams.”
Convicted alongside the 61-year-old vicar were two fellow conspirators, attorney and pastor Michael Adelasoye and Ukraine-born Vladimir Buchak, who is charged as an illegal immigrant.
The prosecution claimed the trio’s scam centered on eastern Europeans who were paid 3,000 pounds (about $4,500) each to marry Africans, thus enabling them to remain in the country.
The three were arrested a year ago by Border Agency officers acting on a tip. Brown was nabbed at his parsonage and suspended from his Church of England duties.
The vicar is scheduled for sentencing next month, but Judge Richard Hayward has already warned him that “you have been convicted on very clear evidence of a very serious offense, and the court will be considering all sentencing options.”
Philip Jones, the archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings for the Diocese of Chichester, told journalists outside the courtroom that “we are particularly sorry for those who have been deceived and hurt by the actions of Father Alex Brown. The church and the community of St. Leonards-on-Sea are faced with a betrayal of trust.”