Two young mothers who married illegal immigrants to keep them in Britain have been spared jail.
Chantelle Burton, 23, and Ashley McGinn, 24, from Middlesbrough accepted thousands of pounds from Ghanaian nationals Benjamin Kusi and Emmanuel Nyarko to agree to a sham wedding.
A friend of Miss McGinn suggested the money-making scheme on Facebook, Teesside Crown Court heard.
She then met sham husband Kusi at Middlesbrough Train Station on February 12 2010, and married two days later on Valentine?s Day. She was paid ?4,190.
Mr Kusi?s working holiday visa was due to expire a few months later, but his illicit marriage meant he could stay in the country permanently.
Miss McGinn informed flatmate Miss Burton of the scam, and two months later Miss Burton was paid ?1,260 to wed another illegal immigrant named Nyarko at Manchester Registry Office.
Mr Nyarko?s visa was due to expire less than two months later.
Officers discovered the marriages were a sham when Miss Burton?s family told the police, the court heard today.
She had recently been welcomed back into her parents? Middlesbrough home by her family after being kicked out following a miscarriage aged 17.
Miss Burton, of Court Road, Middlesbrough, who was going through a period of alcoholism and depression, broke down and confessed everything to her mother.
Both Miss McGinn and Miss Burton were interviewed by police and admitted to the scam.
Mr Nyarko fled back to Ghana while Mr Kusi absconded from police bail and is still on the run.
Both mothers pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful immigration at a previous hearing and were sentenced today.
The court heard how Miss Burton only took the money because she was struggling with her rent, and that she now has a 10-month-old son and works as a care assistant.
Miss McGinn?s mother now lives in Spain and the court heard that she would be unable to take care of her son if Miss McGinn was imprisoned.
Sentencing the pair to eight months imprisonment, suspended for one year, Judge Moorhouse described the act as an ?extremely serious offence.?
He told them: ?Illegal immigrants, of which there are many, should not be
encouraged in the way that you have done, so therefore in my view it?s the kind of offence that fully justifies a suspended sentence.?
The judge also told the pair they must be supervised for the next 12 months. He described the pair?s behaviour as ?stupid? and ?irresponsible,? adding: ?The message must go out loud and clear that this kind of offence will not be tolerated.?