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Citizen Weekly

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

KENYAN WOMAN JAILED IN US OVER MARRIAGE FRAUD




A US federal court has sentenced a Kenyan woman to one year in prison and a three year probation for her role in an inter-state fake marriage scheme.
Margaret Kimani of Worcester, Massachusetts, appeared before U S District Judge John Woodcock in Bangor, Maine, for the sentencing on Tuesday.
She had been found guilty of what the judge described as “one of the most sophisticated marriage frauds in the country” in December last year.
Ms Kimani, 30, was one of 28 defendants convicted in the state of Maine for being part of a scam which saw American citizens getting paid to marry immigrants so they could easily obtain permanent residency status, popularly known as a green card.
“The key idea was to achieve citizenship more easily,” said Maine’s US Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II at a press conference after the sentencing.
Court documents seen by Africa Review indicate that the defendant entered the United States on a visitor's visa which expired in 2003.
“She married an American man on Dec 30, 2003, nearly two years after her visitor’s visa expired in order to gain US citizenship more easily,” a prosecutor’s affidavit filed with the court states.
However, the judge heard, when the man backed out of the scheme, she filed a petition under the Violence Against Women Act, alleging abuse by her spouse.
“Kimani had been awarded lawful permanent residency in March 2010 based on the false information that her husband sexually, physically and emotionally abused her,” the prosecutor told the jury.
Court documents show that she was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2012 and was arrested 13 months later when she returned from a visit to Kenya. She has been held without bail since her arrest on Sept. 5, 2013, at JFK International Airport in New York City.
A jury found her guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the US government in December 2013.
On Tuesday, tough talking US government officials sent a warning to would-be perpetrators.
Deportation
“America’s legal immigration system is not for sale and we will move aggressively against those who willfully compromise the integrity of that system simply to enrich themselves,” said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, whose office headed the investigation that led to the prosecutions.
And during a press conference outside the courthouse Tuesday, the prosecutor warned that the US government would be ruthless on scammers.
“ If you commit marriage fraud, there isn’t going to be a honeymoon,” said US Attorney Delahanty.
The sentencing of Margaret Kimani brings to a close a joint investigation which identified over 40 sham marriages between US citizens and nationals from Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Cameroon.
The court heard that the scheme was hatched by a man named James Mbugua, 53, and his friend Rashid Kakande, 41.
“ Immigrants seeking an American spouse would pay Mr Kakande or Mr Mbugua between $1,000 and $1,500.
Spouses who provided false information, such as joint bank accounts, rent receipts and utility bills to show that the couple was living together, and attended interviews with immigration officials received further payments,” said Mr Delahanty.
Assistant US Attorney Gail Malone, who prosecuted all of the cases, said at the press conference that Kakande and Mbugua targeted the state of Maine “because there is no waiting period for marriage in the state as is the case in many other states.”
In addition to prison time, Judge Woodcock sentenced Margaret Kimani to three years of supervised release.
Ms Kimani, who is a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and has a daughter who is a US citizen, is expected to be deported upon completion of her jail term