A pastor from a Hyattsville-based Maryland church has been indicted for arranging dozens of fraudulent marriages between Americans and foreigners for citizenship purposes.
NewLife City Church Pastor Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi was indicted last week for arranging the marriage of 60 couples from January 2014 to January this year so that the foreign spouse would be able to secure permanent residency in the country, The Christian Post reported. The 50-year-old Shonubi is said to be from Bowie and conducted his operation earning thousands of dollars for the marriages.
The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland released a statement on the federal indictment of Shonubi on October 21. The Attorney's Office highlighted that Shonubi, who also goes by the name Olatokunbo Joshua Shonubi, was indicted with "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 U.S. citizens."
"The indictment was returned on October 20, 2021 and unsealed today upon the defendant's arrest. Shonubi is expected have an initial appearance today at 2:15 p.m., in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson," the Attorney's Office said.
The Office also highlighted that United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek Barron announced the indictment along with Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge James Mancuso and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services District Director Gregory Collett. Shonubi was given seven counts of indictment.
According to the indictment, Shonubi used his role as NewLife pastor to engage 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." This operation enabled him to obtain thousands of dollars from the foreign nationals as payment for providing a U.S. citizen sponsor for them and for conducting their marriage.
Shonubi is said to recruit and groom U.S. citizens that included those who are "economically disadvantaged" out of the promise of receiving money upon their agreement to marry a foreign national as a sponsor of the said foreign national's permanent residence in the country through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Shonubi himself was said to officiate some of the fraudulent marriages, as well as, civil weddings that were performed in Virginia. Moreover, Shonubi used NewLife's letterhead to create 38 reference letters that he himself signed as supporting document of the foreign national's permanent residence application.
What's notable about the reference letters is that they falsely state "his relation to the parties" or the nature of the marriage. Shonubi also used as reasons for giving the reference letter "his belief as to the romantic nature of the marriage" or "his role in providing spiritual guidance or counseling."
More than half of the marriages he fraudulently setup or 34 instances showed that Shonubi created false proofs of rental leases through a 2015 corporation he made named Jaypro. In the said proofs of rental leases, Jaypro posed as landlord of the couple actually living together in the United states after the marriage despite the fact that "they were living separately."
The indictment underscored that the false documents provided by Shonubi and others who were involved with him have already been submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Accordingly, Shonubi faces a maximum of five years imprisonment "for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and marriage fraud" and another maximum of five years imprisonment for his other charges, particularly "for each of six counts of presenting false documents to a federal government agency" should he be convicted of the indictments against him.