Grundy County Court Official Accused of Gay Marriage Fraud

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

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By Katie Stinson

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa - The deputy clerk of court in Grundy County faces felony charges for allegedly filing an illegal Iowa marriage certificate.

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents arrested Brigette Van Nice, 42, on Wednesday and charged her with two counts of forgery and one count of perjury. All charges are class "D" felonies with a term of up to five years in prison.

DCI agents filed the charges after an investigation into a same sex marriage license issued to two men living in Florida. Investigators say the two had contacted Van Nice in late 2011 and inquired about getting an Iowa marriage license. If you live out of state, rules require the couple to physically travel to Iowa to obtain a license. But the state contends the two men didn't do that and Van Nice filed false paperwork saying they did.

One state agent said the scheme began to unravel when the two men filed for divorce and an attorney discovered the Iowa marriage certificate wasn't legal. The attorney contacted Iowa investigators.

The DCI claims Van Nice received $150 to marry the two Florida men and claimed she performed the ceremony herself at a Waterloo truck stop in February. The part time court clerk does have an ordination certificate from an online ministry program.

Investigators say said Van Nice forged the signature of two witnesses on the marriage certificate that was filed in the Grundy County Recorder's office February 15, 2012.

Van Nice was not available for comment and phone calls to the homes of the two men in Florida went unanswered.

But around Grundy Center, the strange case is a topic of conversation.

One resident, Matt Mitchell said "it's not the crime of the century. But you're still doing wrong." When asked if people will be talking about it, resident Harriett Onnen responded "Oh yes, I will talk about it."

Van Nice was placed on leave from her job at the clerk of court's office pending the outcome of the case. Because Van Nice worked at the courthouse, the Marshall County Attorney's office will handle the prosecution. Her initial appearance on the charges is set for Monday.

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