CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — Three Southern California Marine corporals are facing charges of defrauding the government for entering into sham marriages for financial gain, the military said Saturday.
The scam was hatched when a lesbian couple, one a Marine and the other a civilian, decided to live together off base, according to 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a Marine spokeswoman at Camp Pendleton.
The female Marine found a male Marine willing to get married, allowing them to collect a housing benefit, Dooley said. The civilian woman also eventually married a male Marine and collected government funds, according to officials.
The corporals, assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton, will face fraud and larceny charges, Dooley said, adding that other charges could come later. The military did not release their names.
"It doesn't matter what their sexual preferences are, if they're violating the law and making fraudulent use of government money, they will be held accountable," Dooley said.
In addition to the charges, the three Marines could have to pay back the military $75,000.
The female Marine told San Diego's KGTV-TV Friday that she and her partner were forced to enter sham marriages because the military does not provide allowances for unmarried couples and they couldn't afford to live off base without the extra money. She and her partner only wanted to "be a family," she said.
Only married couples are eligible for the $1,200 a month housing allowance.
Even after the military officially drops its ban against openly gay or lesbian members, same-sex couples, even if married, will still not be eligible because of a federal law defining marriage only as between a man and a woman, the Los Angeles Times said Saturday.
The female Marine told the station she and the other corporals could face at least a year in the brig at Miramar, since none of them can afford to pay the government back.
In addition to jail time, she said she will likely be demoted in rank from corporal to private.
Click here to watch KGTV-TV's interview.