Woman Pleads Guilty To Giving False Information To INS

CLEVELAND (AP) - The ex-wife of a Syrian-born gas station operator pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to providing false information to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Susan Hinzman, 42, of Cleveland filed documents that falsely claimed she and her then-husband, Mohammed Refai, lived together in Cleveland so he could gain permanent resident status in the United States, prosecutors said. Hinzman filed for divorce after 16 months of marriage.

The divorce complaint said Hinzman and Refai had been living apart for more than a year. She told the FBI in January that she never lived with Refai following their April 1998 marriage, according to an INS affidavit.

Hinzman faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine on the misdemeanor charge. Sentencing has not been scheduled.

Defense attorney Debra Hughes, declined to comment on why Hinzman married Refai, who operated a gas station in Akron until mid-September.

He was arrested and detained on immigration charges a week after the East Coast terrorist attacks amid stricter immigration oversight.

In a separate hearing Monday, Refai pleaded innocent to one count of marriage fraud, five counts of immigration document fraud and two counts of lying to federal agents. He could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent ordered Refai remain in custody of the U.S. Marshal's office until an appeal of the INS detainment order is resolved.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)