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Former UND student charged with marriage fraud in Fargo jail

By Stephen J. Lee

Grand Forks Herald

Jeff Goble, the former UND student charged with fraudulently marrying a Bosnian woman so she could obtain U.S. citizenship, is now in custody in the Cass County Jail in Fargo.

Goble, 23, was arrested last week in Philadelphia shortly after returning from Bosnia, where he went a few months ago, allegedly to escape prosecution.

Goble was charged in federal court this month in Fargo with marrying Alma Numic, 28, in June 2008 at a wedding chapel in Grand Forks in return for $15,000 from Numic.

Numic had returned to Bosnia in the past year and remains in Sarajevo. She has not been charged in the case.

According to court documents, friends of Numic told investigators that Numic and a friend, Kristen Blessum, cooked up the plan to allow Numic to more easily obtain U.S. citizenship.

Numic was in the United States legally as a student, but her visa would not have allowed her to stay indefinitely, said Nick Chase, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Goble.

The federal investigation began when someone aware of the allegedly fraudulent marriage contacted authorities, according to court documents.

But she never became a U.S. citizen, Chase said. The investigation continues, and other charges may be filed in the unusual case, he said.

Federal marriage fraud has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and is defined as anyone who gets married "for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws."

Chase can't say much about the specifics of this case.

The federal agent who wrote up the affidavit of probable cause behind the criminal complaint leading to Goble's arrest said the two had never met until shortly before getting married at a Vegas-like wedding chapel in Grand Forks and didn't live as a couple after the wedding. The complaint alleges Numic paid Goble $15,000 in three installments.

Later, Goble moved to Seattle, as did Numic and Blessum. At some point, Numic returned to Bosnia.

In April of this year, a friend of Goble's told federal investigators that Goble went to Bosnia in December because he didn't want "to go to prison," and planned to lay low there for three years until the case against him was dropped.

He was arrested May 4 in Philadelphia, which "was the first place he landed," after returning from Sarajevo, Chase said this week.

Goble will remain in custody in Fargo until his arraignment in the next week or two, Chase said.