Guam mom of 6 spared jail time for  sham marriage; co-actors fled to Korea

COURTHOUSE: The District Court of Guam as seen Dec. 8 in Hagåtña. Jocelyn Rojas Taitano, a single mother of six, was sentenced to probation on Thursday for marriage fraud while her co-defendants have fled to Korea. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Jocelyn Rojas Taitano will not have to spend any time in federal prison after she was sentenced to two years of probation for admitting that she married a man to help him get a green card in exchange for money.

Taitano, 36, appeared before District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Thursday.

She has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.

“Ms. Taitano was terrified when she was first approached by law enforcement. She’s got six children. She is as single mother and gets no help from the father,” said defense attorney Briana Kottke. “She is the only person out of the three charged who did not run and accepted responsibility.”

Co-actors Nam Hoon Kim and his mother, Mi Soon Lee, agreed to pay Taitano $800 per month. In total, she made $8,800 for her part in the sham.

Authorities believe Kim and Lee fled to South Korea.

“I want everyone to know that I am really not a bad person. That was a terrible mistake that I will never make again. This has been a terrifying experience for me and I apologize,” said Kottke, as she read her client’s letter to the court.

“It’s a lesson learned for me right now,” said Taitano.

The chief judge accepted her apology.

Assistant US Attorney Stephen Leon Guerrero wanted Taitano to serve at least one month in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

He noted that her sentencing was held moments after more than a dozen new U.S. citizens were sworn in during a naturalization ceremony inside the same courtroom.

“Prior to the hearing, I was able to partake in the naturalization ceremony that occurred with 14 individuals who went through the process and received their U.S. citizenship. What is important to note, we have 14 individuals with one from South Korea and 13 from the Philippines. We have people going about the process – doing things the right way … we have this defendant assisting her codefendant to conspire and try to get this illegal benefit and circumventing the process others had to go through,” said Leon Guerrero. “That’s not fair and that’s not right.”

The indictment states in 2016, Kim’s mother approached and asked Taitano to marry Kim to help him get a green card to legally remain in the United States. Taitano agreed and the pair signed a marriage license with the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

"They certified they were married at a Korean Methodist Church in Mangilao, Guam on Nov. 13, 2016, when in fact, an actual marriage ceremony never occurred,” court documents state.

Taitano was also accused of stating on immigration documents that she and Kim were residing in an apartment unit at the Summerville Apartments in Tamuning, when in fact, the couple had never lived together. Taitano had been residing in a separate residence with her children, documents state.

Additionally, Kim primarily resided off the island while attending college in the U.S. mainland.

During the alleged conspiracy, Lee and Kim leased the unit at the Summerville Apartments to create the appearance of a legitimate marriage between Taitano and Kim.

Taitano also received an $800 check every month for about one year from Lee and Kim to pay rent for the Summerville Apartment unit. But, after paying only one month's rent, and with Lee’s and Kim’s knowledge, Taitaino kept the aggregate total of $8,800 for her personal use, documents state.

“Don’t be so quick to be so naïve, to get hooked in to try to help another person. It sounds like you were trying to help them, but you helped yourself because you kept the money,” said Tydingco-Gatewood during the sentencing. “Don’t be so quick to say yes to people because look what happened, you end up with a crime here in federal court.”

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