Speed Reads

Past lives

Oregon First Lady admits to secret past marriage done for immigration fraud

Cylvia Hayes, who as the longtime girlfriend (and recently, fiancée) of Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) serves as the First Lady of Oregon, acknowledged Thursday that she had a previously unrevealed marriage to an Ethiopian national that was conducted purely for the purposes of immigration fraud. She was paid about $5,000 to participate in the sham marriage.

The false marriage occurred in 1997, when Hayes was 29; the Ethiopian immigrant, named Abraham B. Abraham, was 18 years old. Their later divorce was finalized in 2002. "Not long after the divorce, Abraham went on to graduate magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics from Greensboro College in North Carolina," The Oregonian reports. "He currently owns a two-story home in a suburb of Washington, D.C."

The story was first revealed late Wednesday by Willamette Week. This discovery apparently stemmed from court records showing she had been married three times — her official biography said she had only been married twice.

Hayes likely won't face serious legal repercussions, an immigration attorney told The Oregonian, as the statute of limitations for the offense expired five years after the marriage was first entered upon.

"This was a difficult and unstable period in my life," said Hayes, in a lengthy statement published Thursday by The Oregonian. "I was struggling to put myself through college and was offered money in exchange for marrying a young person who had a chance to get a college degree himself if he were able to remain in the United States." Because she "was ashamed and embarrassed" over the fraudulent marriage," she added, "I did not share this information even with John once we met and started dating."

Watch the video clip below, from a very shaken Hayes at a press conference earlier today --Eric Kleefeld