Jose Angel Moreno, United States Attorney
Southern District of Texas
A 10-count federal indictment charging five Kenyan nationals with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and visa fraud has been unsealed following their arrests, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with Peter S. Hargraves, Special Agent in Charge of the Diplomatic Security Service’s (DSS) Houston Field Office.
The indictment, returned by a Houston grand jury under seal on Nov. 17, 2010, charges Houston area residents Andrew Mitema, 31, Herman Ogoti, 50, Alfonso Ongaga, 33, Andrew Mokoro, 32, and Rebmann Ongaga, 30, with conspiring to commit marriage fraud for the purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States beginning in January 2001, marriage fraud and benefit/visa fraud as a result of each having conspired together to recruit and pay United States citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages with each of them for the purpose of receiving lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.
All five defendants were arrested Friday by special agents of the Department of State - DSS who conducted the investigation leading to the indictment. All five defendants appeared in federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy and have been ordered to remain in custody pending a detention hearing set for Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, at 10:00 a.m.
According to allegations in the indictment, before entering the United States, each of the defendants applied for student visas. Four of the defendants were granted student visas and used the visa to enter the United States, but Rebmann Ongaga was refused a student visa. After his student visa was denied, Rebmann Ongaga’s married a recruited United States citizen in Kenya and later entered the United States with a spouse visa. The indictment further alleges that the other four defendants, after entering the United States, married recruited American citizens to enter into fraudulent marriages in exchange for cash to evade the immigration laws of the United States. All five of the Kenyan nationals paid the recruited United States citizens approximately $5,000 to enter into the fraudulent marriages, according to the indictment. As part of the conspiracy, the indictment further alleges the defendants recruited family members of the United States citizens to marry other Kenyan nationals.
“The U.S. visa is one of the most coveted travel documents in the world, and foreign nationals who acquire visas fraudulently to enter the United States may do so in order to carry out criminal activities, including terrorism,” said Hargraves. “This case demonstrates Diplomatic Security’s commitment to investigating these crimes and helping bring them to justice.”
Conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud both carry a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Benefit fraud carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
This federal indictment is the result of an ongoing investigation conducted by the Department of State - DSS. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kebharu H. Smith.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
Public Affairs Officer