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6 September 2010, 12:10 | Updated: 6 September 2010, 12:19
A Church of England vicar was jailed for four years today for his part in Britain's biggest sham marriage fraud to help hundreds of illegal immigrants stay in Britain.
The Reverend Alex Brown, 61, abused his position to marry hundreds of desperate African men to hard-up Eastern European women at his small parish church.
Over a four-year period, the "massive and cynical scam'' involved women being paid up to #3,000 to wed to help illegal immigrants gain permanent residency in Britain.
He presided over 383 marriages at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, between July 2005 and July 2009, a 30-fold rise in marriages held over the previous four years.
He was sentenced to four years in jail after being found guilty at Lewes Crown Court in July of conspiring to facilitate the commission of breaches of immigration laws, alongside solicitor Michael Adelasoye, 50, and ``recruiter'' Vladymyr Buchak, 33.
Judge Richard Hayward also handed Brown a five-month sentence after he pleaded guilty to solemnising a marriage according to the rites of the Church of England without banns being properly read. The two sentences will run concurrently.