Newsonspot blog reports that a Nigerian preacher has been arrested in Baltimore, Maryland, for allegedly trying to use his position to aid marriage and visa fraud in the United States.
This is according to a press statement issued by the concerned authorities.
“A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi, a.k.a. Olatokunbo Joshua Shonubi, age 50, 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, in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain permanent resident status for foreign nationals by arranging marriages to US citizens,” the statement read.
The indictment was returned on October 20, 2021, and unsealed today upon the defendant’s arrest.
Shonubi is expected to have an initial appearance today at 2:15 p.m., in US District Court in Baltimore before US Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and 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 alleges that Shonubi received thousands of dollars from foreign nationals in exchange for connecting them with US citizen sponsors and facilitating their marriages.
The indictment alleges that Shonubi, often utilizing his role as pastor of NewLife, directly or through others, recruited and groomed US 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 alleges 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 a landlord, to provide proof that the foreign national and US 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 alleges that Shonubi and his co-conspirators submitted at least 60 application packets to USCIS, each documenting a marriage between a US citizen and a foreign national, for the purpose of obtaining permanent residence for the foreign national.
If convicted, Shonubi faces 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 will determine any sentence after taking into account the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI and USCIS for their work in the investigation. Mr Barron thanked Special Assistant US Attorney Jason X. Hamilton and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Maddox who are prosecuting the case.