A former Fort Bragg soldier and a current sergeant are among 11 people charged in a marriage fraud ring, officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office announced this week.
A federal indictment alleges that 37-year-old Ebenezer Yeboah Asane, the former soldier, planned and organized the sham marriages of foreign nationals to soldiers at Fort Bragg, Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said in a news release.
The charges include 29 counts of marriage fraud, transporting and harboring aliens, visa fraud, obstruction, unlawful disposition of U.S. property, false statements in immigration matters, and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, the news release said.
The purpose of the conspiracy was for the foreign-born nationals to evade U.S. immigration laws and obtain lawful permanent resident status and for the soldiers to receive a basic allowance for housing to live off post, officials said.
Samuel Manu Agyapong, 33, a sergeant at Fort Bragg, has also been charged with obstructing an official proceeding by attempting to destroy evidence and influencing the testimony of a witness, the release said.
Others charged include:
-- Christopher Matthew Urquia, 23, of Fort Bragg.
-- Kevyn Jakob Ward, 22, of Fayetteville.
-- William Steven Ballard, 23, of Fayetteville.
-- James Earnest Ekow Arthur, 32, of El Paso, Texas.
-- Effua Agyare-Darko, 43, of Ardsley, New York.
-- Ernest Atta Gyasi, 43, of Bronx, New York.
-- Solace Kwakye, 30, of Bronx, New York.
-- Yemisi Mary Opaso, 27, of Hanover, Maryland.
-- Barbara Oppong, 41, of Bronx, New York.
The indictment alleges that various defendants conspired with Asane to recruit other soldiers into the fraudulent scheme, orchestrated photographs to give the appearance the marriages were legitimate, and submitted false statements to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in support of the sham marriages.
Officials said the investigation is ongoing. It is being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force and the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabriel Diaz is representing the prosecution.
Officials said the maximum penalties are as many as five years in prison for marriage fraud, 10 years in prison for harboring aliens, 20 years for obstructing an official proceeding and 25 years for visa fraud.
This article is written by Rachael Riley from The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.