Three Indicted on Conspiracy to Commit Marriage Fraud and Related Immigration Charges
RALEIGH – Robert J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, announces that a federal grand jury in Raleigh has returned an indictment charging LEVAN LOMTATIDZE, age 44, a citizen of the country of Georgia, MELISSA ANNE GODSHALL, age 31, a citizen of the United States, ROBERT J. KENNERLEY, age 46, a citizen of the United States, with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, aiding and abetting, visa fraud and false statements in immigration proceedings.
The indictment alleges that GODSHALL and KENNERLEY, who were romantically involved, were panhandling for money on the side of the road in Granville County, North Carolina. An individual approached them and asked GODSHALL if she would be willing to marry a foreign-born national for money. GODSHALL agreed to engage in the marriage to LOMTATIDZE in exchange for $12,000, housing, and a vehicle. LOMTATIDZE and GODSHALL got married in Granville County, North Carolina. The marriage ceremony was witnessed by KENNERLEY and another individual.
LOMTATIDZE, GODSHALL and KENNERLEY entered into a rental agreement for a house located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The rent was paid for by LOMTATIDZE as part of the payment for the sham marriage. Thereafter, GODSHALL and LOMTATIDZE submitted fraudulent applications to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting LOMTATIDZE’s adjustment of status as a lawful permanent resident in the United States. LOMTATIDZE and GODSHALL were interviewed at the USCIS office in Durham, North Carolina. Both attested under oath they were married in good faith. As a result of the interview, USCIS approved the request and LOMTATIDZE was granted “conditional” resident status in the United States. Later, LOMTATIDZE and GODSHALL submitted to USCIS another application attesting they were still married in good faith and requesting LOMTATIDZE’s removal of conditions on his resident status.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, visa fraud, and false statements in immigration proceedings, LOMTATIDZE and GODSHALL would each face maximum penalties of thirty years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, and aiding and abetting marriage fraud, KENNERLEY would face maximum penalties of ten years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The case was investigated by the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) in the Eastern District of North Carolina led by Homeland Security Investigations and assisted by USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security.