Six KC Residents Indicted for Marriage Fraud Conspiracy
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that five Kansas City, Mo., women and one man have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a marriage fraud conspiracy.
Delmar Dixon, 48, Traci R. Porter, 44, her daughter, Tierra Ofield, 23, Stephanie Harris, 21, Shakeisha Harrison, 36, and Kakeland Barnes, 36, all of Kansas City, were charged in a 14-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury on Aug. 31, 2016. That indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of all six defendants.
The federal indictment alleges that Dixon, Porter, Ofield, Harris, Harrison and Barnes participated in a conspiracy beginning in 2007 in which they were paid to marry African nationals so that their spouses could obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
According to the indictment, Dixon arranged marriages between African nationals (from Kenya and Tanzania) and U.S. citizens. Dixon allegedly introduced the African nationals to U.S. citizens who were willing to enter into fraudulent marriages with them, including but not limited to Dixon’s co-defendants.
Dixon allegedly charged the African nationals $1,000 upfront for such introductions. The African nationals were allegedly required to pay the U.S. citizen spouses, including Porter, Harrison, Ofield, Harris, and Barnes, $500 at the time of the wedding, $500 after the completion of the wedding and $250 each month after the wedding until the immigration process was complete.
After the African nationals and U.S. citizen spouses were married, according to the indictment, they filed immigration documents in order to obtain lawful permanent resident status for the African nationals. Conspirators allegedly represented their marriages as valid and legitimate through false statements on immigration forms, including by claiming the couples resided together, and making false and misleading statements about their marriages to federal officials. Dixon coached the African nationals and his co-conspirators on how to make their marriages appear legitimate, the indictment says, advising the couples to get to know each other and make it appear as if they were residing together.
According to the indictment, on Nov. 24, 2015, Harris married a confidential informant working with Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) in Kansas City. (Because the marriage was staged by HSI, it is not legally valid.) From the fall of 2015 until the present, Harris accepted monthly payments from the confidential informant and pressured him for other financial benefits.
On Jan. 23, 2016, Dixon allegedly accepted a payment from an undercover agent working with HSI in Kansas City. The payment was for the introduction of the agent to a potential spouse he could marry for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits for the undercover agent. Dixon introduced the undercover agent to Barnes, who allegedly indicated to the agent that she was willing to enter into the marriage for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits for the undercover agent and that she understood it was just a business transaction. On Feb. 19, 2016, Barnes and Dixon allegedly accepted payments from the undercover agent for their ongoing cooperation in the marriage arrangements. Barnes allegedly accepted another payment from the undercover agent on July 19, 2016.
In another instance cited in the indictment, Porter married a Kenyan national twice. The two had to end their first marriage because a federal investigation revealed the Kenyan national was still legally married in Kenya. Porter and the Kenyan national remarried after his divorce from his prior wife was granted.
In addition to the conspiracy, Dixon, Porter, Harrison and Harris are each charged with one count of marriage fraud.
Dixon, Porter and Harrison are each charged with one count of making a false statement relating to naturalization, one count of unlawfully procuring citizenship or naturalization and one count of false swearing in an immigration matter.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security.