5 arrested and charged with a Nigerian marriage fraud scheme in Houston
HOUSTON — Five Houston residents were charged in a seven-count indictment that was unsealed Wednesday alleging their involvement in a marriage fraud scheme involving Nigerian nationals.
These charges were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, along with Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.
This indictment resulted from a previous indictment charging six defendants, who were all convicted earlier this year. The indictment was returned under seal Nov. 18 and unsealed Dec. 9. Folarin H. Alabi, 33, Justice Daniel, 40, and Ifeoma Adamolekun, 39, all of Houston, were taken into custody Dec. 9.
Letrishia A. Andrews, 36, also of Houston, was in state custody on unrelated charges and made her initial appearance in federal court Wednesday. At that time, U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy ordered that she be detained pending further criminal proceedings.
A final defendant — Charles R. Warren, 43 — is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact ICE at 281-985-0500.
The five defendants allegedly conspired together in connection with a marriage fraud ring involving arranged “sham” marriages between recruited U.S. citizens and Nigerian nationals. A “sham” marriage is a marriage that is entered into for the primary purpose of circumventing U.S. immigration laws.
“Becoming an American citizen is an honor and a privilege,” said Moskowitz. “Obtaining citizenship through fraud threatens the integrity of our legal immigration system, and is an affront to every person who has played by the rules. HSI special agents continue to work with our partners to ensure that those who use criminal and dishonorable means to achieve the most honorable of goals are brought to justice.”
This indictment alleges conspirators paid U.S. citizens for entering into fraudulent marriages to Nigerian nationals who had originally entered the country on tourist visas. The conspirators then completed immigration documents and submitted them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain U.S. permanent resident status, according to the indictment. As part of this conspiracy, the indictment further alleges they took staged photographs of themselves as a couple for documentation of an allegedly meaningful relationship. The conspirators also allegedly coached the recruits and/or the Nigerian nationals on what to say when questioned or interviewed by law enforcement or immigration officials about the legitimate nature of the marriages.
The indictment charges all five with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Alabi, who is charged with recruiting the Nigerian nationals to engage in this conspiracy, is also charged with two counts of aiding and abetting marriage fraud. Andrews and Warren are each charged with the same allegation. Daniel and Adamolekun were also indicted on one count of committing marriage fraud.
Alabi allegedly recruited Nigerian nationals, including Daniel and Adamolekun, to enter into “sham” marriages with U.S. citizens to ultimately gain U.S. permanent status. The indictment further alleges Daniel knowingly married Andrews, a U.S. citizen, for the for the purpose of evading any provision of U.S. immigration laws. Similarly, Warren allegedly entered into a sham marriage with Adamolekun, according to the allegations. At the time of this conspiracy, Alabi and Adamolekun were natives and citizens of Nigeria and had entered the U.S. temporarily on non-immigrant visas. Daniel is a U.S. permanent resident.
If convicted on any of the counts as charged, each defendant faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
These charges resulted from an investigation by HSI’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, and the Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Bennett, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.
The indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. All defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.