Military officials are charging three California-based Marine corporals with fraud and larceny for entering in a pair of sham marriages to collect housing funding, officials said.
The military alleges that a lesbian couple _ one a Marine, the other a civilian _ decided to live together off base and wanted to collect the $1,200 housing benefit granted to married Marines.
The female Marine found a male Marine willing to get married, allowing them to collect the housing benefit, and the civilian woman also eventually married a Marine and collected funds, 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, a spokeswoman at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, said Saturday.
The female Marine, Cpl. Ashley Vice, told San Diego's KGTV-TV that she and her partner, Jaime Murphy, were forced to enter sham marriages because the military doesn't provide allowances for unmarried couples and they couldn't afford to live off base without the extra money. She and her partner only wanted to "be a family," Vice said.
"It doesn't matter what their sexual preferences are, if they're violating the law and making fraudulent use of government money, they will be held accountable," Dooley said.
The corporals, assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton, now face fraud and larceny charges, but more could come later, and the three could have to pay back $75,000 to the military.
The military does not have jurisdiction over the civilian woman, Dooley said, and it was not clear if she would face charges.
Even after the military officially drops its ban against openly gay or lesbian members, same-sex couples, even if married, would still not be eligible because of a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Vice told the station she and the other corporals, Jeremiah Griffin and Joseph Garner, could face at least a year in the brig at Miramar, since none of them can afford to pay the government back.
In addition to jail time, Vice said she will likely be demoted in rank from corporal to private.