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St. Louis public defender accused in federal marriage sham case

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis – The former head of the state public defender's office in St. Louis faces federal charges for allegedly arranging a sham marriage to keep his boyfriend in the United States.

U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said Eric Affholter and the man described by prosecutors as his partner, Pedro Cerna-Rojas, a native of Peru, were indicted for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Authorities believe Cerna-Rojas may have fled the country.

Hanaway said the men recruited an assistant public defender, Collette Lewis, to marry Cerna-Rojas in 2004 for the sole purpose of keeping him in the U.S. She was not indicted.

Affholter and Lewis both resigned last week. A third lawyer, a prosecutor in the city Circuit Attorney's office, witnessed the 2004 marriage and also resigned, but was not indicted.

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