Man in sham marriage probe asks money back

 By Ed White

Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — An owner of apartments in suburban Detroit is trying to recover about $250,000 that was seized by agents in an investigation of sham marriages.
John Gutowski was charged with a crime in June, but the case was dropped a month later. Agents said they’re suspicious that dozens of immigrants who’ve lived at his Brougham Manor apartments in Plymouth have filed to have their immigration status changed after marrying U.S. citizens, especially since 2004.

Gutowski denies any wrongdoing.

“I didn’t know I had to police who’s getting married to whom,” the Northville man said in an interview Monday. “I’ve got three businesses to run and I’m going to be arranging marriages? It doesn’t make any sense.”

A criminal complaint filed last summer accused Gutowski of conspiring with others to commit marriage fraud, especially among Eastern Europeans who are in the U.S. The government said he agreed to change the date on a lease in 2012 to help a man who was planning to marry an American woman. The woman was an undercover agent.

“I don’t see no problem with the date change,” Gutowski said. “When did you move in? People move in and are added to the lease all the time.”

The government dropped the charge just weeks later in July, but it doesn’t mean he’s in the clear. A criminal complaint in the federal system is a temporary charge that can be followed by further action.

“We will decline comment as the investigation is ongoing,” said Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The government still holds money that was seized from Gutowski’s bank accounts last summer when the charge was filed. Details were disclosed Monday in a court filing that was triggered by Gutowski’s request to get the cash back. The dispute over the money has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain.