On November 9, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had assisted in the investigation of a large scale marriage fraud ring that resulted in the conviction of three individuals for violating federal law [PDF version]. The statement detailed that a federal jury found three individuals — Letrishia Andrews, Justice Daniel, and Florian H. Alabi — “guilty on multiple counts of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, aiding/abetting marriage fraud, marriage fraud, theft of government funds[,] and false statements.”
The USCIS explained in the news release that the defendants paid U.S. citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages with Nigerian nationals, who had originally entered the United States on tourist visas, for the purpose of allowing the Nigerian nationals to fraudulently procure lawful permanent resident status. Fraudulent immigrant visa petitions were filed on behalf of the Nigerian nationals as part of the scheme. The conspirators coached recruits on what to say when questioned or interviewed by immigration officials or law enforcement officials in order to sell the fraudulent marriages as legitimate.
Andrews was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $5,629.00 in restitution to the Department of Agriculture. Alabi, described as the “ringleader,” was previously sentenced to 18 months in prison. The USCIS news release notes that neither Alabi nor Daniels are U.S. citizens and that both are expected to face removal after their release from incarceration.
This case highlights that marriage fraud is not only serious in the immigration context, but it also may lead to criminal sanctions in certain cases. This is the third time in 2017 that the USCIS has publicized its role in an investigation of a marriage fraud scheme. Please see our blogs on an August [see blog] and April [see blog] update on the USCIS's efforts to combat fraudulent marriages.