Feds say marriage was an immigration sham; defense attorneys insist it was real

By Brendan Kirby, Press-Register

MOBILE, Alabama — It didn’t require much effort for Homeland Security Investigations agents to investigate an alleged sham marriage last year. All they had to do was look out the window.

Special Agent Chris Anderson testified today in federal court that that Fayad Bassam Azzam’s apartment in July was adjacent to the Homeland Security Investigations office off on Airport Boulevard.

He said Azzam’s door was visible from the office, so it was easy to see who was coming and going. In addition, Anderson said, the agency installed a motion-sensing video camera trained on Azzam’s door for about 2½ weeks.

During that time, Anderson told jurors, he saw Azzam’s wife — Julia Beatriz Castro — only one time.

In addition to Anderson’s testimony, prosecutors offered power bills and rental documents showing that Castro and Azzam lived at different addresses before and after than December 2010 marriage in Mobile. An ex-boyfriend of Castro also testified that he was living with her during part of the time she was married to Azzam.

Azzam, a Palestinian who was born in the United Arab Emirates, had come to the United States on a student visa to attend the University of South Alabama. After earning an undergraduate degree, he began working toward a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. According to records introduced today, though, his grades went south and the school sent him a letter in May last year informing him that he was being dismissed for academic reasons.

That, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Costello told jurors in his opening statement, was the real reason he had married Castro the previous December.

“It’s not about what happened,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Costello told jurors during his opening statement. “It’s about why it happened.”

Attorneys for the defendants conceded their marriage was not a traditional one. But they said it was real.

Richard Shields, an attorney for Castro, said his client and Azzam met at an auto dealership and not only got married but had sex with each other. Azzam had relatives who were trying to set up an arranged marriage to an American woman but he resisted. Castro, meanwhile, recently had gotten out of a turbulent relationship of here own.

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