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Press Release

Nigerian National Convicted of Marriage Fraud to Evade Deportation, False Statements to a Federal Officer, Failure to Appear for Trial

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE – Rasheed Abiodun Akanni, 42, a Nigerian national residing in Pawtucket, R.I., on Thursday was found guilty at trial by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., of entering into a marriage with a U.S. citizen for the purpose of evading deportation, false statements to a federal officer and failure to appear before the U.S. District Court as required by conditions of release. Akanni was found guilty as charged in indictments returned by federal grand juries on September 13, 2016, and April 6, 2017. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 17, 2017.


Rasheed Abiodun Akanni’s conviction is announced by Acting United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch; Matthew J. Etre, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations for New England; and Denis Riordan, District Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


According to the government’s evidence presented during a three-day bench trial, Akanni entered the United States from Nigeria on June 3, 2003, on a six-month visitor for pleasure visa. He never left the United States and made several unsuccessful attempts to gain legal status.


On July 13, 2007, Akanni filed for lawful permanent resident status as the spouse of an American woman. The woman later withdrew her support for Akanni’s application. On November 23, 2010, Akanni filed a petition for asylum, which stayed removal proceedings.


According to the government’s evidence, in the fall of 2012 Akanni began a relationship with an American woman, whom he later married in a civil ceremony on February 14, 2013. Akanni and his wife continued to live in separate residences until jointly renting an apartment in June 2013. However, Akanni’s wife told investigators that he only stayed at their joint residence on average three or four nights a week. After two months, Akanni’s wife instructed Akanni to move out of their joint residence.


According to the government’s evidence, in October 2013 Akanni informed his wife that he would be filing an application for lawful permanent residence based on their marriage. His wife testified she was unaware that her husband was not a legal resident of the United States, but that she agreed to support his application for legal status. In September 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers interviewed Akanni and his wife separately. On May 6, 2015, USCIS officers again interviewed both individuals separately. Further investigation determined that Akanni and his wife gave conflicting answers during the second interview as to the state of their marriage. While Akanni’s wife told USCIS investigators that her marriage to Akanni was not good and that she would be seeking a divorce, Akanni made false statements to the officers as to the state of his marriage and his residence. Akanni claimed that he resided with his wife and that the residence he was at on the day he was interviewed was his sisters. The investigation determined that Akanni actually shared the residence with a woman with whom he fathered a child. The child was born on February 13, 2016.


On September 13, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Rasheed Abiodun Akanni on charges of entering into a marriage with a U.S. citizen for the purpose of evading deportation and making false statements to a federal officer. Akanni was arraigned on September 14, 2016, and released on unsecured bond. Among the conditions set by the court for his release, Akanni was ordered to appear for trial in U.S. District Court on a trial date to be set by the court. The court scheduled the trial to begin on January 30, 2017. Akanni failed to appear in court for his trial. An arrest warrant was issued by the court.


In the early morning hours of January 31, 2017, Akanni was stopped attempting to enter Canada by officers from the Canada Border Service Agency. At the border, Akanni provided an American passport in another person’s name. Canadian officers returned him to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol checkpoint in Lewiston, N.Y. U.S. Marshals later returned Akanni to Rhode Island where he remained in federal custody. On April 6, 2017, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Rasheed Abiodun Akanni with failure to appear before the U.S. District Court for trial.


Acting United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch acknowledges and thanks the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Service in Buffalo, N.Y. for their assistance in this matter.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Zechariah Chafee prosecuted the case. On April 11, 2017, pursuant to a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zechariah Chafee was appointed Border Security Coordinator for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island. Attorney General Sessions instructed each United States Attorney’s Office to designate a Border Security Coordinator to coordinate the District’s commitment to criminal immigration enforcement.


Updated April 21, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-37