Woman Charged With Giving False Information To INS

CLEVELAND (AP) - The ex-wife of a Syrian-born gas station operator arrested by federal authorities in September has been charged with giving false information to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Prosecutors allege Susan Hinzman of Cleveland lied to the INS in January 1999, when she told officials that she and her then-husband, Mohammed Refai lived together at an address in Cleveland.

The charge leveled against Hinzman on Tuesday is that she lied to the INS during a hearing on her husband's immigration status.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although it is a less serious charge than marriage fraud.

She could not be reached for comment. She does not have a listed telephone number in Cleveland.

Her testimony that she and Refai were living together in Cleveland helped establish that the marriage was real, earning Refai a permanent resident status, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Thursday.

Eight months after testifying that they were living together, Hinzman filed for divorce. The divorce complaint said that Hinzman and Refai had been living apart for more than a year, the newspaper said.

Until mid-September, Refai operated a Gas-O-Clean gas station in Akron. He was arrested and detained on immigration charges a week after the terror attack on the World Trade Center. He has been held without bond at a prison in Batavia, N.Y., since then. Federal officials allege that the 1998 marriage that allowed him to become a permanent resident was a sham.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)