Nigerian Pastor Arrested By U.S. For Fraud
A Nigerian pastor identified as Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi has been charged by the United States for a federal charge of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud and for presenting false documents to a federal government agency.
Shonubi was also reported to have fraudulently obtained permanent resident status for foreign nationals by arranging marriages to U.S. citizens.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment on October 20, 2021, following the arrest of the defendant.
Shonubi is expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by 2:15 pm today (Friday).
The 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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the indictment.
According to the seven-count indictment, from at least January 2014 through January 2021, Shonubi, pastor of New Life 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 U.S. citizen sponsors and facilitating their marriages.
The indictment alleges that Shonubi, often utilizing his role as pastor of New Life, 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 alleges that Shonubi created and signed at least 38 reference letters on New Life 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 counseling; 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 alleges 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.
The cleric if convicted of the charges leveled against him 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.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI and USCIS for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason X. Hamilton and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Maddox, who are prosecuting the case.