Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi, a Nigerian pastor in the United States, has been indicted for a serious crime.
The man was indicted by a federal grand jury over his alleged role in paying poor people to marry foreign nationals.
The jury charged Shonubi, pastor of NewLife City Church, Inc. in Hyattsville, Maryland, for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud and for presenting false documents to a federal government agency.
The 50-year-old Nigerian based in Bowie, Maryland was alleged to have been involved in a scheme to fraudulently obtain permanent resident status for foreign nationals by arranging marriages between them and citizens of the United States.
The indictment charge was returned on October 20, 2021 and unsealed on Thursday upon the defendant’s arrest, according to the US Justice Department.
According to the court document, the 50-year-old Nigerian 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 further alleged that Shonubi received thousands of dollars from foreign nationals in exchange for connecting them with US citizen sponsors and facilitating their marriages.
Also, the clergyman used his role as pastor of NewLife, in recruiting and grooming United States 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,” the court document stated.
The indictment further 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.
He was also said to have created false rental leases, listing Jaypro, a corporation he formed in 2015, as the landlord, to provide proof that the foreign national and US citizen were living together when they were actually living separately.
They further alleged 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, to obtain 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.
The false documents created by Shonubi and others were allegedly submitted to USCIS as part of the foreign nationals’ applications for permanent residence.