Federal and North Carolina investigators closed the door on another sham marriage ring set up at Fort Bragg, NC. The investigation resulted in grand jury indictments for both active duty and former soldiers stationed at the base.
The charges state that the accused were involved in a criminal organization designed to fraudulently wed foreign nationals to soldiers. The sham marriages were arranged by a middleman.
The purpose of the fake marriages was to offer foreign citizens a clear path to citizenship and soldiers the opportunity to move off base and collect thousands of dollars in Basic Allowance for Housing pay.
The Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) and Homeland Security’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) were responsible for the investigation. The DBFTF, based in Raleigh, has members from several state and federal agencies.
Investigators found that this latest marriage scam involved both current and former service members in the Fort Bragg area and foreign nationals mainly from Ghana, Nigeria, and the U.K.
The exact number of people involved was not disclosed, but court documents point to the involvement of at least seven known participants, and the possibility of at least 10-15 fraudulent marriages. The grand jury issued more than 10 subpoenas to individuals involved in the case.
A Ghanian citizen, Joshua Kwame Asane, 45, is accused of marrying a soldier with the sole intention of gaining legal permanent residency in the U.S. He has been charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, visa fraud, false statement in an immigration proceeding, and preventing testimony of a person in an official proceeding. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
Joshua Asane’s sham spouse, a sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg, told the investigators that the first time she met Asane was in front of the Cumberland County Courthouse on their marriage day. She was first introduced to Ebenezer Asane her “husband’s” brother who was the middleman in the scheme.
The unnamed NCO has not yet been charged with any crime, but she clarified in her statements the true nature of her false marriage. “The marriage is not legitimate. We’ve never engaged in sexual relations or any forms of intimacy. I married Joshua to receive BAH to move off post,” she said to CID investigators.
Once the Asane brothers became aware of the investigation, Ebenezer Asane coached the NCO on how to lie to the grand jury and convince them her marriage was legitimate.
Army Sergeant Lawrence Oppong-Kyekyeku, a Fort Bragg NCO, was aiding and abetting the fraudulent marriage. He had submitted a notarized letter to immigration officials attesting that the relationship between the two “partners” was legitimate. Oppong-Kyekyeku, who is a naturalized citizen originally born in Ghana, claimed that he had been close to the couple before they were wed.
In his letter to U.S. immigration officials, he wrote that “I have been at their house and seen the love that transpires between them… I have no doubt about the authenticity of this marriage.” He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, and aiding and abetting. He can get a maximum sentence of 10 years and $500,000 in fines.
Sham marriage rings are not new to Fort Bragg, since the troops there deploy on a regular basis all over the world. In 2009, three individuals were charged with conducting sham marriages with Russian brides from central Asia.
In another case, in December 2019, Army Sgt. Edward K. Anguah, a cook assigned to the 3rd Expeditionary Command on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and fraudulent misuse of visas, permits, and other documents. That case came unraveled in late 2018 when Pvt. Endasia East was interviewed by Army criminal investigators at Fort Bragg for having sex with another soldier despite being married, according to a federal complaint filed Jan. 24, 2019.
“It is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a married soldier to engage in sex with someone other than their spouse, thus the concern by the leadership,” the criminal complaint said.
East had married Sulemana Ibrahim, a Ghanaian citizen who was living in New York, in July 2018. When confronted by her chain of command and CID about her actions, she readily told investigators about the sham marriage ring that Anguah had set up.
“Although these are legally and factually separate conspiracies, there are links and overlaps between the charged conspiracy involving the Asanes and the Anguah charged conspiracy,” a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“These types of crimes threaten the national security and public safety of the U.S. by creating a vulnerability which potentially enables terrorists, other criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States,” the spokesperson added.