Sunday, 24 October 2021

Nigerian Pastor Arraigned In US Court For Arranging 60 Fraudulent Marriages Between American Citizens, Other Nationals

Joshua Shonubi, a Nigerian cleric and Pastor of New Life City Church, Maryland, United States, is presently undergoing trial in the United States for allegedly arranging approximately 60 fraudulent marriages for foreign nationals and American citizens.

The Federal Grand Jury charged Shonubi, aged 50 years, of Bowie, Maryland, for a federal charge of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud and for presenting false documents to a federal government agency.

This is in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain permanent resident status for foreign nationals by arranging marriages to U.S. citizens. 

The indictment was returned on October 20, 2021 and unsealed today upon the defendant’s arrest. 

Shonubi is expected to have an initial appearance on Saturday in US District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson.

The indictment was announced by US Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; the Special Agent in Charge, James R. Mancuso, of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and the District Director, Gregory L. Collett, of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

According to the seven-count indictment, from at least January 2014 through January 2021, Shonubi, pastor of NewLife City Church, Inc. in Hyattsville, Maryland, engaged in a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain immigration benefits for foreign nationals by arranging their marriage to United States citizens who served as their sponsors for permanent residence in the United States.  

The indictment alleged that Shonubi received thousands of dollars from foreign nationals in exchange for connecting them with U.S. citizen sponsors and facilitating their marriages.

The indictment continued that Shonubi, often utilising his role as pastor of NewLife, directly or through others, recruited and groomed U.S. citizens, including economically disadvantaged citizens, with payments and promises of money in exchange for marrying foreign nationals, then sponsoring the foreign nationals for permanent residence in the United States through USCIS.  

Shonubi also allegedly officiated some of the fraudulent marriages or arranged for a civil marriage ceremony to be performed in Virginia.  Further, the indictment alleged that Shonubi created and signed at least 38 reference letters on NewLife letterhead in support of foreign nationals’ applications for permanent residence falsely stating; his relation to the parties; the nature of the marriage; his role in providing spiritual guidance or counselling; and his belief as to the romantic nature of the marriage.  

On at least 34 occasions, Shonubi also allegedly created false rental leases, listing Jaypro, a corporation he formed in 2015, as landlord, to provide proof that the foreign national and U.S. citizen were living together, when in fact, they were living separately. 

The false documents created by Shonubi and others were allegedly submitted to USCIS as part of the foreign nationals’ applications for permanent residence.  

The indictment alleged that Shonubi and his co-conspirators submitted at least 60 application packets to USCIS, each documenting a marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign national, for the purpose of obtaining permanent residence for the foreign national.

If convicted, Shonubi faced a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and marriage fraud and a maximum of five years in federal prison for each of six counts of presenting false documents to a federal government agency. 

Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.

A federal district court judge would determine any sentence after taking into account the US. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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