A New York City woman accused of getting married 10 times over an 11-year period as part of an apparent immigration scam pleaded not guilty to felony fraud charges in Bronx court Friday -- and then got arrested again a short time later for allegedly trying to evade a subway fare.
Liana Barrientos, 39, was arrested along with her 19-year-old niece when she went through the emergency exit door at the 149th Street and Grand Concourse subway station without paying the fare, police said. She was charged with theft of service and criminal trespassing.
Barrientos was arraigned in Bronx Criminal Court Friday night on those charges, and released on her own recognizance, the district attorney's office said. Her niece was also released on her own recognizance.
Earlier, Barrientos walked past a line of media on her way into the Bronx courtroom; neither she nor her attorney spoke to reporters. Barrientos took a seat in a back row as she waited for her name to be called; at one point she pulled out a hairbrush and combed her hair until a courtroom officer told her the behavior was not permitted.
Barrientos is charged with offering a false instrument after allegedly obtaining marriage certificates with 10 men between 1999 and 2010. She never filed for divorce, the criminal complaint alleges, though several of her husbands, seven of whom are from so-called "red-flagged" countries including Egypt, Turkey, Georgia, Pakistan and Mali, filed divorce paperwork after using her to file applications to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.
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Only two of their applications for permanent residency were approved; one of the husbands whose application was rejected was deported to his home country of Pakistan in 2006 after a Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation found he made threatening statements toward the United States.
Barrientos is allegedly currently married to four men -- husbands she acquired in 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2010. At one time, she was married to as many as eight men, authorities allege. She was arrested after applying for a 10th marriage in the Bronx in 2010; during that process she signed documents saying it was her first and only marriage, which prosecutors say constitutes fraud.
The complaint alleges Barrientos filed for marriages in different towns each of the 10 times since her first marriage in 1999, mainly in Westchester County and on Long Island.
During a 10-month period in 2001 and 2002, the complaint alleges, she applied for and received eight more marriage certificates.
Federal investigators from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security brought the case to the attention of the Bronx district attorney's office.
In a statement, an ICE spokesman said the case was referred to prosecutors because an investigation revealed irregularities in some benefits received in relation to the marriages.
-Katherine Creag and Lori Bordonaro contributed to this report