- Associated Press - Friday, January 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Mexican actress pleaded guilty Friday to making a false statement to immigration authorities in a case alleging she engaged in a phony marriage to gain U.S. residency.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real told Fernanda Romero to return for sentencing on April 11 but gave no indication of what her sentence might be.

The maximum would be five years in prison, plus a fine and probation, but prosecutors have not sought jail time.

Romero had small roles in several films, including “Drag Me to Hell,” but is best known for her role in the Mexican soap opera “Eternamente Tuya.”

Federal immigration agents sat at the prosecution table in court but did not speak. The issue of whether she could be deported was not raised at the hearing. It could be addressed at sentencing.

The actress had been living in the United States for 10 years, occasionally working as a model, before she and Kent Ross married in 2005.

Prosecutors contended they married so Romero could obtain permanent residency then lived in separate homes and dated other people.

The couple were charged early last year. A mistrial of the case was declared in September after jurors reported deliberations had grown hostile. The plea deal avoids a retrial.

The guilty plea came on a limited section of the original allegations against Romero, with the remaining charges to be dismissed at sentencing.

The statement at issue was made by Romero to immigration authorities when they were investigating the marriage. She told them Ross and her mother “hang out all the time,” which authorities said was false.

“In truth and in fact defendant’s mother and co-defendant Ross had only met on a few occasions,” the plea agreement states.


Romero declined to give interviews but her lawyer, Michael Nasatir, issued a statement on her behalf.

“I deeply regret my making this misstatement to (immigration officials) and take full responsibility for my actions. I apologize to all of those who have supported me through this difficult time,” the statement said.

Ross previously agreed to plead guilty to falsely stating on immigration forms that he and Romero were living together in 2005 and 2006. His plea hearing was postponed until Feb. 4.

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