An undertaker entered into a sham marriage with a Chinese takeaway owner so that she could stay in Northern Ireland.
Belfast man Glen Baxter was so infatuated with 29-year-old Nicole ‘Mei' Chen that he convinced himself she would love him one day.
The deluded 27-year-old was also promised the chance to invest in a Chinese restaurant and a £3,000 loan if he wed the young Asian mum.
The pair tied the knot at Castlereagh registry office in May 2004 in a sham ceremony that was minus a wedding dress, reception and honeymoon.
After saying their vows they went their separate ways.
In the intervening six years, Chen settled down with a Chinese boyfriend, who she had a child with, and opened takeaways in Omagh and Enniskillen.
The court heard that Baxter also fathered a child and has since got a second girlfriend pregnant who is due to give birth on Christmas Eve.
The phony ‘husband and wife' saw little of each other until last week when they were reunited in the dock of Downpatrick Crown Court.
Both pleaded guilty to entering into a sham marriage so that Chen, whose visa had expired, could remain in Northern Ireland.
Baxter, who the court heard was “blinded by attraction and a romantic pursuit that wasn't reciprocated”, was given 240 hours of community service.
His bride Chen was jailed for nine months, but her sentence was suspended for two years.
They both refused to talk to the media as they left the courthouse.
Sunday Life has also obtained copies of letters Chen sent to Baxter prior to their sham wedding.
In them she explains how they needed to set up a joint bank account to give credibility to their fake marriage.
After they were wed Baxter borrowed around £3,000 from his Chinese bride — money which he later paid back.
His defence lawyer explained how he fell in love with Chen.
“She worked in a Chinese restaurant in Bangor, and he started to visit it more regularly to see her,” said the barrister.
“As their friendship became stronger he was asked to enter into the marriage arrangement. He accepted, not aware it was criminal.”
A lawyer for Chen said she had come to the Republic of Ireland as a student in 1999.
He claimed that his client was unaware that Northern Ireland is a different jurisdiction and
thought her Irish visa applied across the border.
When the visa expired in 2003 Chen asked Baxter to become her ‘husband' so she could avoid deportation.
After the wedding she moved to Omagh where she met her current partner before opening a takeaway in Enniskillen two years ago.
The court was told that immigration authorities are not looking to deport Chen, whose young son is an Irish citizen and whose partner has successfully claimed political asylum.
Sentencing both, Judge Geoffrey Miller accused them of “undermining public confidence in immigration rules”.
Turning to Baxter, he added: “You are something of a patsy in all of this. You hoped it may have become a real marriage.”