Defendant Convicted of Arranging Fraudulent Marriages to Deceive Immigration Officials
ATLANTA - Rex Anyanwu has been found guilty of deceiving Immigration officials by helping aliens enter into fraudulent marriages to U.S. citizens and guilty of obtaining his own citizenship in violation of the law and of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and alien harboring.
"For at least eleven years, the defendant ran a fraudulent marriage factory," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “He paid U.S. citizens to marry aliens and then lied to Immigration officials to assist the aliens in their illegal efforts to stay in the United States. Anyanwu's illegal business has been shut down and he will now lose his own citizenship.”
“By undermining the integrity of our immigration system, the defendant caused numerous people to receive immigration benefits to which they were not entitled, including the ability to fraudulently naturalize as U.S. citizens in some cases,” said Special Agent in Charge Brock D. Nicholson, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and the Carolinas. “By enlisting vulnerable homeless and destitute citizens in his scheme, the defendant exposed them to a criminal conspiracy in which they otherwise would likely never have been involved in.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Beginning in February 2001 and continuing until April 2012, Rex Anyanwu conspired with aliens and U.S. citizens to defraud immigration officials to obtain lawful status for the aliens in the United States. At trial, the United States called numerous U.S. citizen witnesses from Huntsville, Ala. who testified how they were recruited and paid $700 by Anyanwu to marry aliens, predominantly from Kenya and Nigeria. Alien witnesses were also called to testify that they had agreed to pay Anyanwu as much as $10,000 to find them a U.S. citizen willing to marry them, but not live with them.
The U.S. citizens and aliens testified that they typically did not meet each other until the very day of the wedding when they were introduced, sometimes on the court house steps, by Anyanwu. The defendant told the “couple” to bring multiple changes of clothes and in one case provided the U.S. citizen with the shirt off of his own back. He would then take pictures of the supposedly happily married couple in different clothing for use in proving to Immigration officials that the couple shared a life.
A true marriage, one where the couple intends to remain together, is one path through which an alien can become a U.S. citizen. Engaging in a marriage solely for immigration purposes is a crime. Evidence at trial showed that Anyanwu continued his scheme by filing fraudulent applications for visas with Citizenship and Immigration Services. Many witnesses testified the defendant would forge the U.S. citizens' names on the paperwork submitted to Immigration. For an additional fee, Anyanwu would create fraudulent documents to show the couple lived together, including false Form 1040 tax returns, false W-2s, fraudulent verification of employment letters, fraudulent leases and bills all intended to demonstrate that the couple was in fact sharing their life and living together.
When Immigration scheduled an interview with the couple, Anyanwu would then send the U.S. citizen spouse in to a Department of Motor Vehicles’ office to obtain a fraudulent Driver's License or Identification card. The U.S. citizens testified they were again paid by the defendant to do this and were told by him what address to put on the identification document. These documents were intended to deceive Immigration into believing the couple actually lived together when, in fact, they never did.
Lastly, Anyanwu would again contact the U.S. citizen spouse when it was time for the “couple” to go in for their Immigration interview. The defendant would meet with the couple and go through the questions, and the answers to questions, typically asked by Immigration to determine if a marriage is valid; simple questions that any legitimately married couple that lived with each other would know. However, since these couples did not live together and share their lives, they needed Anyanwu's coaching to pass the interview. The U.S. citizens testified that they were paid more money by the defendant for attending the interviews. The aliens testified that they paid Anyanwu additional money before the interview.
One Huntsville, Ala., witness testified that she was made to pose as another person and go to Immigration pretending to be the spouse of an alien. When she was arrested for using fraudulent identification, Anyanwu abandoned her in Atlanta, Ga., and later threatened her not to tell anyone about him. Another witness testified that she referred 50 U.S. citizens to Anyanwu to get paid to marry people born in Africa.
The charges in this case - visa fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1546(a), conspiracy to engage in visa fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, alien harboring in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) and (v)(II) and (B)(i), conspiracy to do the same in violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I), and procuring naturalization for himself in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1425(a) - carry a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison for the 371 conspiracy charge and 10 years in prison for the remaining charges, and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but which provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing for Rex Anyanwu, 51, of Lithia Springs, Ga., is scheduled for sentencing on January 27, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. before United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration’s Fraud Detection National Security Unit and U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service also assisted in the case.
Assistant United States Attorney Susan Coppedge, Special Assistant United States Attorney Njeri Maldonado, and Intern Annalise Lisson are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.