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Press Release

Man Who Arranged Sham Marriages Between Nigerians And U.S. Citizens Found Guilty Of Immigration Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles man was found guilty today of six felony immigration-related offenses for illegally arranging sham marriages that allowed Nigerian nationals to fraudulently obtain legal permanent residency in the United States.

Alake “Terry” Ilegbameh, 46, a resident of the Baldwin Hills district of Los Angeles, was found guilty of six counts of conspiracy to violate immigration laws.

Ilegbameh was convicted by a federal jury following a six-day trial before United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on February 24. At sentencing, Ilegbameh faces a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

Prosecutors proved at trial that Ilegbameh arranged sham marriages for the purpose of obtaining permanent resident status for six Nigerian immigrants. Ilegbameh recruited American citizens who agreed to marry an African immigrant for money – typically offering the U.S. citizens $1,000 or more – and Ilegbameh actively participated in schemes to make the resulting marriages appear legitimate to immigration officials.

As part of the scheme, Ilegbameh instructed the Nigerians and the Americans in the sham marriages how to make their relationships appear genuine by opening joint bank accounts or other accounts, obtaining identification with matching addresses, and taking photographs together. Ilegbameh made arrangements for the couples to see immigrations attorneys, who would file visa petitions and applications for adjustment of status containing false statements to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After Ilegbameh concluded that federal agents were conducting an investigation, he instructed some of the Americans involved in the marriages to lie to investigators and he threatened them that they would go to jail if they withdrew from the sham marriages.

“Hollywood likes to glamorize marriage fraud, but as this defendant discovered, in real life these schemes don’t have happy endings,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. “Immigration benefit fraud is a serious crime. Not only do these activities undermine the integrity of our nation’s legal immigration system, they also pose a significant security vulnerability.”

The investigation into Ilegbameh’s activities was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Release No. 13-134

Updated June 22, 2015