A grand jury indicted Wednesday two men with involvement in a criminal organization designed to fraudulently marry foreign nationals to soldiers.
The organization involved active and former active duty members in the Fort Bragg area and foreign nationals mainly from Ghana, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, investigators have reported in court documents.
It is not immediately clear how many were involved in the organization, but court documents suggest at least seven known participants, a number of unknown participants and the possibility of at least 10 to 15 fraudulent couples.
More than 10 people have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.
According to the indictments, mock marriages arranged through an intermediary offered foreign citizens a path to citizenship and soldiers a chance to live off the base and collect thousands of dollars in basic housing allowance.
Joshua Kwame Asane accused of marrying soldier with the sole intention of obtaining lawful permanent residence in the United States
Charges against the 45-year-old Ghanaian citizen are conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, visa fraud, misrepresentation in immigration proceedings and inability to testify of a person in a formal proceeding.
He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a $ 1.25 million fine if convicted.
When the fraudulent couple first married, according to court documents, Army Sgt. Lawrence Oppong-Kyekyeku, stationed at Fort Bragg, submitted a notarized letter to immigration officials attesting to the legitimacy of the relationship. Oppong-Kyekyeku, a naturalized citizen born in Ghana, claimed to have been a close friend of the couple before the marriage.
“I went to their house and saw the love that transpired between them… I have no doubts about the authenticity of this marriage,” Oppong-Kyekyeku’s letter said.
Joshua Asane’s “wife” told investigators that the first time she had met her future husband was outside the Cumberland County courthouse on their wedding day.
Oppong-Kyekyeku now faces charges of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and aiding and abetting with a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $ 500,000 fine if convicted.
Asane’s brother, Ebenezer Yeboah Asane, is accused of being the intermediary between soldiers and citizenship seekers and was arrested in October 2019, according to court records.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Homeland Security Document Fraud and Benefits Task Force were responsible for the investigation. The Raleigh-based DBFTF has members from a wide range of state and federal agencies.
Investigators have recorded Ebenezer Asane’s attempts to persuade undercover agents to contract fraudulent marriages with foreign nationals, offering thousands of dollars and bragging about his “100% success rate” with at least 10-15 couples previous ones.
Ebenezer Asane also reportedly told undercover agents that they could report their husbands living in New York City to receive an additional $ 4,000 per month in BAH.
Joshua Asane’s “wife”, also an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg, provided investigators with information on how a member of her unit had introduced her to Ebenezer Asane, who came up with the idea of ‘a fraudulent marriage to his brother.
“Marriage is not legitimate. We have never had sex or any form of intimacy. I married Joshua to receive a BAH to relocate, ”the soldier told investigators.
When the Asane brothers learned of the investigation and the possibility of the soldier being compelled to testify, Ebenezer Asane coached her on how to lie to a grand jury and convince investigators of the legitimacy of their marriage.
The sergeant who impersonated Joshua Asane’s wife has yet to be charged.
“After a full review of all the relevant evidence and factors, investigative subjects often have the opportunity to mitigate the consequences of their criminal behavior,” said a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Carolina North to the Military Times when asked if Sgt would be in charge. “In some cases, it may be cooperative conduct that reduces the number of charges to lay.”
Ebenezer Asane and a number of other foreign nationals who have sought to participate in fictitious marriages are still awaiting charges.
An indictment is not a determination of guilt but rather a formal charge resulting from a grand jury investigation. The Asane brothers, Oppong-Kyekyeku and others still face trials that will determine their guilt.
It’s not the first case of fraudulent marriages at Fort Bragg. In December 2019, the army Sgt. Edward K. Anguah, a culinary specialist with 3rd Expeditionary Command from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was convicted of conspiracy to marry from soldiers to immigrants in an exchange of legal resident status for money and other perks, like getting out of the barracks and reaching basic housing allowance.
“Although these are legally and factually distinct plots, there are links and overlaps between the accused plot involving the Asanes and the accused Anguah plot,” said the spokesperson for the US attorney’s office.
“These types of crimes threaten the national security and public safety of the United States by creating a vulnerability that potentially allows terrorists, other criminals and illegal aliens to enter and remain in the United States,” said the spokesperson.
Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at the Military Times. He studied political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he also participates in the Army ROTC program.