Ring Leader Sentenced In Marriage Fraud Scheme
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Jamar Thomas, 30, of Rochester, NY, who was convicted of conspiracy to encourage or induce an alien for private or commercial gain to reside in the United States in violation of law, was sentenced to one year in prison by U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig R. Gestring, who is handling the case, stated that in October 2015, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) received information from a confidential informant regarding an ongoing marriage fraud scheme involving Jamar Thomas and United States citizen (USC) females, based in Rochester.
Subsequent investigation determined that the defendant told a Confidential Informant, who was not a United States citizen, but a native and citizen of Nigeria, that he could arrange fraudulent marriages between non-citizen males and United States citizen females known to him. Thomas said non-citizen males could pay $5,000 to marry his female co¬conspirators in order to gain legal status in the United States.
Between November 2015, and September 2016, the defendant met with undercover federal agents and/or confidential informants in Rochester to discuss their sham marriage. Thomas introduced the undercover agents or confidential informants to his co-conspirators and they provided their name, address, date of birth, and telephone numbers so that the undercover agents or confidential informants could file the necessary immigration forms.
During these meetings, the defendant and the undercover agents or confidential informants discussed specific details of the sham marriage process and the ceremony. On at least two occasions, women working for Thomas got married at a Town Clerk's Office within the Western District of New York. On one occasion, the defendant was physically present and acted as a "witness" to one such wedding. However, unknown to Thomas, the Town Clerk who performed the ceremonies was actually an undercover law enforcement agent. Following the weddings, false immigration forms were prepared and mailed in support of applications to adjust the citizenship status of the new "spouses."
On at least one occasion, women working for the defendant accompanied the undercover agent to Buffalo and participated in an immigration interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The undercover agents or confidential informants paid money directly to Thomas and his female co-conspirators for their roles in the sham marriages.
Also charged and convicted in this case:
• Khaaliqa Kegler-sentenced to three years probation to include six months home confinement;
• Chimere Brooks-sentenced to two years probation; and
• Nadia Thomas-awaiting sentencing.
“Fittingly, defendant Thomas was sentenced on the same day and in the same federal courthouse in which over 50 individuals participated in a naturalization ceremony during which they became lawful U.S. citizens,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The folks who participated in that Naturalization ceremony followed the rule of law and, in so doing, demonstrated a basic understanding of and respect for the fundamental idea that in America, with rights come responsibilities. By acting responsibly and following the rules, those individuals commendably walked out of the courthouse that day with all of the rights and privileges that come with citizenship to the United States. These fraudsters, on the other hand, who sought to circumvent the rule of law and essentially to sell the privilege of citizenship to our great Nation to the highest bidder, also left the courthouse with exactly what they deserved—federal criminal convictions and sentences which include terms of probation or imprisonment.”
“Marriage fraud undermines our nation’s legitimate immigration system and creates a potential vulnerability for law-abiding citizens,” said Kevin Kelly, Special Agent-in- Charge of HSI Buffalo. “Anyone who engages in marriage fraud is taking an illegal shortcut to U.S. citizenship. HSI will continue to aggressively investigate this type of criminal activity.”
The convictions in this case are the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Child Exploitation Unit, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.