Alaska-based soldier and Florida-based wife admit to marrying for military benefits and US citizenship

an aerial view of multi-story buildings and parking lots on a miliatry base
Army barracks on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

An Alaska-based soldier who got more than $90,000 in fraudulent military dependent benefits and the woman who married him for U.S. citizenship have admitted to having a sham marriage.

Jacob Twork and Eddy Carolina Cruz both signed plea deals filed in federal court Tuesday in which they admitted to one felony count each of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.

Twork was a sergeant in the Army’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, an Army spokesperson said.

The plea agreements say Twork and Cruz were introduced to each other on Facebook and — with a plan to get money for him and citizenship for her — they married in Hawaii in 2016.

They were never in a relationship and never lived together, and they filed paperwork for Cruz to become a permanent U.S. citizen, which she was granted in 2018, according to the court documents.

Twork’s plea agreement also says he filed forms with the Army for dependent benefits multiple times, when the military moved him to Texas and then again to Alaska. Meantime, both were dating other people, and Cruz was living in Florida, where she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby that wasn’t Twork’s, the court documents say.

The two remained in contact, though, and shared concerns that they’d be caught, which led them to stage photos together in Alaska in 2019 to make it appear as though they’d been married and living together all along, according to the plea agreements.

“They staged birthday, anniversary, Christmas and other pictures together, to appear as if they were taken over an extended period of time and in different locations,” the court documents say. “In reality, these photos were all taken on the same day.”

Twork has admitted to receiving a total of $92,635 in housing and allowance benefits from the Army, and Cruz has admitted to getting the change on her immigration status and nearly $9,000 in medical care.

A judge still needs to accept the plea agreements, but prosecutors are recommending restitution in the amounts of the fraudulent benefits Twork and Cruz received, as well as a sentence of probation.

Twork’s attorney, Benjamin Muse with the Federal Public Defender’s office, agreed with the prosecutors’ characterization of the marriage fraud scheme detailed in the plea agreements.

“He is ashamed of his actions and feels deep remorse,” Muse wrote in an email. “He will be taking responsibility for his conduct and hopes that others can learn from his mistakes.”

An attorney for Cruz declined to comment.

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.