- Associated Press - Monday, April 25, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Mexican soap opera star accused of entering a sham marriage to stay in the United States is scheduled to be sentenced Monday after admitting she lied during an immigration proceeding.

Fernanda Romero and her husband, Kent Ross, are both expected to avoid prison as a result of plea bargains in the case.

The Mexican-born actress has had bit roles in U.S. films such as the 2009 horror movie “Drag Me To Hell,” but is perhaps best known for appearing in the Mexican soap opera “Eternamente Tuya,” which means “eternally yours.”

Romero and Ross‘ lives for the past year have played out like a telenova, with federal agents arresting them last April on suspicion of entering a sham marriage.

The couple maintain they love each other but say their marriage fell apart partially because their courtship was so quick.

But several former acquaintances testified against the pair at a trial last summer. And federal prosecutors presented evidence that Romero and Ross lived in separate homes, contrary to information the two provided on immigration forms.

Prosecutors also said the pair dated other people and essentially lived separate lives.

A mistrial was declared in September after jurors reported deliberations had grown hostile. A retrial was set for February, and Romero and Ross each faced five years in prison if convicted of marriage fraud and other charges.

However, the two ended up pleading guilty to lesser charges of making false statements. Instead of prison time, prosecutors are recommending that Romero pay a $5,000 fine and serve five years’ probation.

According to court documents, Romero admitted lying when she claimed Ross and her mother “hung out all the time.” Ross, a musician and restaurant worker, admitted he lied when he said he and Romero lived together. Prosecutors contended Ross was paid $5,000 to marry Romero so she could obtain permanent residency.

Michael Nasatir, Romero’s attorney, wrote in a filing that the actress is heavily involved in several charities, including working with children afflicted with AIDS.

Ms. Romero has no prior criminal history, and the instant offense was a never-to-be-repeated event for which she is truly remorseful,” Nasatir wrote.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real is scheduled to sentence the pair at a hearing Monday afternoon.

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