A Lithia Springs man was sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison for brokering more than 100 sham marriages with the intent of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenships.
And in the process, he also obtained his own citizenship.
According to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates’s office, Rex Anyanwu, 51, of Lithia Springs was sentenced in U.S. District court in Atlanta to five years and 10 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He also was fined $6,000 and stripped of his U.S. citizenship.
Anyanwu was found guilty of alien harboring, obtaining his own citizenship in violation of the law, and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
“Anyanwu abused the same immigration system that allowed him to become a U.S. citizen,” Yates said in a statement. “His price for defrauding the government is high – not only will he spend a significant amount of time in jail, Anyanwu will also lose his United States citizenship and be deported to his native Nigeria upon completion of his sentence.”
Information presented in court included:
- From February 2001 and until his arrest in 2012, Anyanwu ran a “fraudulent marriage factory,” to deceive immigration.
- Testimony said Anyanwu would drive from the Atlanta to Huntsville, Ala. and lure U.S. citizens into a marriage with a stranger with the promise of quick, easy money.
- One young woman testified that she recruited for Anyanwu, and was paid to find approximately 50 other U.S. citizens willing to engage in sham marriages, primarily to Africans from Kenya and Nigeria. The U.S. citizens agreeing to marriage were paid to be married and participate in interviews with the Citizen and Immigration Services in Atlanta.
- Anyanwu would coach the couples on how to answer the questions to make the marriages appear to be real.
- Anyanwu provided fraudulent documents, such as income tax returns and verification of employment.
- Some aliens testified they paid Anyanwu as much as $10,000.
- Anyanwu made at least a million dollars from his crimes.
Also in the statement sent by Yates’ office:
“Immigration policy provides that a marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign-born spouse who is a citizen of another country is one path through which an alien can become a U.S. citizen. However, participating in a marriage solely to obtain citizenship is a crime. Evidence at trial showed that Anyanwu filed fraudulent applications for visas on behalf of the aliens who hired him and would forge U.S. citizen names on the paperwork submitted to Immigration.
One alien witness testified that after Anyanwu was under investigation he contacted her and told her that if anyone asked about him, “Say you don’t know me.”
Another U.S. citizen witness stated that he was scared of Anyanwu, who threatened that if he did not show up for the Immigration interview Anyanwu would have others hurt him. Anyanwu’s efforts to obstruct the investigation did not succeed, and cost him more time in jail.”