Reid aide gone amid news report of fake marriage

By Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 26 2010 12:15 a.m. MDT

LAS VEGAS — A press secretary to Hispanic media in Nevada for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is no longer with his office amid a news report accusing her of marrying a man in 2003 to help him evade immigration laws, a Reid spokesman said Monday night.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the conduct allegedly committed by Diana Tejada was "clearly wrong." He said Reid's office was not previously aware of the allegations, first reported Monday on FoxNews.com. He added Tejada is no longer with the office after an internal investigation.

"But the bottom line remains that this story was a desperation measure by partisan Republicans, who have stooped to slinging mud about junior staffers to score points in the waning days of (the U.S. Senate) campaign," Manley said.

Reid is seeking a fifth Senate term against GOP challenger Sharron Angle. Polls show the race — which has been filled with nasty ads and negatively charged rhetoric against each candidate — about even.

The Fox News report said the 28-year-old Tejada lied to authorities to cover up her marriage to 37-year-old Bassam Mahmoud Tarhini. But the report said Tejada was never charged with a crime.

A home phone listing for Tejada could not be found.

Manley declined to say whether Tejada resigned or was fired — or even when she stopped working for Reid, saying he doesn't discuss personnel issues. He said she had been employed in Reid's office since 2008.

A federal criminal complaint filed against Tarhini in Oklahoma in July 2009 says Tejada and Tarhini were married in September 2003, while they were both students at Oklahoma City College. The complaint said Tarhini, a Lebanese citizen from Beirut, entered the United States in 2000 on a student visa to attend the school.

Two months after getting married, Tarhini registered to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States, the complaint said.

The complaint said an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official interviewed Tejada in November 2008, and she withdrew a visa petition for Tarhini.

"Tejada's stated reason for her withdrawal was that her marriage to Tarhini was false," the complaint said. "Tejada married Tarhini after he told her he did not want to return to Lebanon because he would have to serve in the national army."

Tarhini and prosecutors reached a plea agreement in October last year. He pleaded guilty to entering into a marriage to evade immigration laws, was credited for time served and released into ICE custody.

The Fox News report said Tarhini was deported in March 2010.

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