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Military marriage contracts
Weddings can cost a fortune.
Well this morning, we're finding out that many military marriages are also costing you and the tax payer
As Genevieve Curtis reports, some soldiers are looking for contract marriages.
Finding a bride with a carefully crafted ad is a practice as old as print. Now some soldiers are turning the search for a marriage that matters, into a quick cash commitment.
"I'm 5'7 and160 lbs. Well-built and athletic. Looking for the right person to set up a contract marriage for a couple more years. I'll be in the military a few more years and need someone to help me stay sane."
"Looking for someone to contract marriage with. Would prefer military like me. You can be lesbian looking to get the army benefits."
"The details of our arrangement can be discussed"
For the past year and a half I've collected dozens of similar ads on web sites like Craigslist, so through email we set up a date to meet a soldier looking for love-- er, marriage
We'll call him, Mister x.
"This benefits me because I get my own place off base or at least out of the barrack. But it also provides me with extra money to save up and do stuff with."
Posing as a 22 year old freelance photographer we sent one of our producers to meet Mr. X. While we recorded nearby he explained his motivation.
"It's very frustrating living on base."
He told us soldiers often enter into contract marriages so they can move off post, plus it's a lucrative way to increase their housing pay.
"You receive your housing allowance to find a place or rent a place or you can put in with the on post office."
"It varies post to post and depends on a soldier's rank as well as time in the service. But a married soldier receives substantially more money than a single soldier for basic allowance for housing or BAH."
By getting hitched enlisted soldiers living off post also receive basic allowance for subsistence... 352.27 a month.
Mr x told our potential contract bride the benefits she, as a civilian would also be entitled to if she participates.
"The medical and dental stuff is really cheap. The military does all this for me."
Plus perks like lasik eye surgery, access to the commissary where goods are typically cheaper and not taxed and travel expenses.
"It's $126 for a round trip to Tokyo and back. It's a great way to travel the world."
He added if she wanted to go back to college, the Government could pay for that too.
"$4,500 you can use for the entire year, whatever you want to do, you just want to take your core classes or extras."
Health care, extra cash, travel and tuition, all bought with taxpayer dollars and all our producer had to do was sign her name next to Mr. x on a slip of paper at the courthouse.
But-is it legal?
Mckenzie asked, "Can we get in trouble for it, that's my main concern I guess."
Mr. x said, "There is a possibility but it takes so much substantial evidence that actually has to be proven. What can the army really say?"
With housing increases and other bonuses stemming from marriage, a solider can make an extra $20,000 a year. So we also wanted to know what the army would say. After waiting weeks for a response from Fort Bliss, we received a statement that reads, in part:
"The first armored division and Fort Bliss leaders are concerned about the possibility of a Fort Bliss soldier considering engaging in a fraudulent marriage."
It goes on to say:
"Marriage is a personal, private decision between adults, so the Army does not question a soldier's marital decisions without cause. Fraudulent marriages are not condoned by the military and are inconsistent with the values and ethics we require from our soldiers."
Soldiers face several charges for hiring a spouse.
Punishment for those offenses range from dishonorable discharge, to 10 years in prison, reduction in rank and possibly the total forfeiture of pay and allowance.
I asked Fort Bliss how many fraudulent marriages have been investigated in the last five years and whether investigators monitor sites like those we found with the ads. Officially, Fort Bliss would not respond but an Army official says the criminal investigative division or CID investigates these crimes on a case-by-case basis. How many Fort Bliss has had or has currently is unknown.