By JOE KIARIE
Four Kenyans residing in Houston, texas, USA, have been sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud.
Mr Alfonso Ongaga and Mr Andrew Mokoro, both aged 36, were on Wednesday sentenced to 16 months in federal prison while Mr Herman Ogoti, 53, and Mr Rebmann Ongaga, 33, will serve a six-month term. Mr Ogoti and Alfonso Ongaga were also convicted of unlawful procurement of naturalisation.
US District Judge Melinda Harmon convicted the four following a seven-day trial on November 14, 2013.
The judge further signed an order annulling the naturalisation of Ogoti and Alfonso, stripping them of their deceitfully acquired US citizenship.
A fifth defendant charged in the case, Mr Andrew Mitema, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and tampering with a witness. His sentencing is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Only last week, a US federal court sentenced a Kenyan woman to one year in jail and a three-year probation for involvement in a fake marriage scheme.
Ms Margaret Kimani, 30, of Worcester, Massachusetts, was jailed after being found guilty of what US District Judge John Woodcock described as “one of the most sophisticated marriage frauds in the country.”
She was among 28 other defendants convicted in the state of Maine for being part of a scam, which saw recruited US citizens getting paid to marry immigrants so they could easily obtain a Green Card. In the most recent case, the defendants are reported to have jointly conspired to recruit and pay US citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages for the purpose of receiving lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.
Before entering the US, each of the defendants applied for student visas. All, except Rebmann Ongaga, were granted those visas and used them to enter the country.
After his student visa was denied, Rebmann flew a recruited US citizen to Kenya in order to hold a sham wedding ceremony. The woman returned to the United States after two days, with Rebmann entering the US with a spouse visa several months later.
After entering the country, the remaining defendants married recruited American citizens, most of whom were related to each other and to the citizen who traveled to Kenya. Authorities say each recruited woman was to be paid Sh430, 000 ($5,000) for her participation in the fake marriages.
The conspiracy was unearthed on November 10, 2009, after two additional recruited women were detained at the US Passport Office in Houston, suspected of committing passport fraud.
The case was investigated by the Department of State – Diplomatic Security Service, Immigration and Customs.