BANGOR, Maine — Two Massachusetts men pleaded not guilty Friday to arranging sham marriages in Maine so illegal aliens could stay in the country.
Rashid Kakande, 37, of Woburn, Mass., and James Mbugua, 49, of Springfield, Mass., were indicted July 13 by a federal grand jury in Bangor on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States.
Mbugua (mah-GOO-ah) is a native of Kenya and Kakande (kah-KAHN-dee) is a native of Uganda, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The men are lawful permanent residents, according to Assistant U.S. Atttorney Gail Malone, who is prosecuting the case.
Both men are free on bail.
Their trial dates were set tentatively for Sept. 7.
Kakande and Mbugua were arrested on July 20 in Massachusetts and released the next day on $25,000 unsecured bond after appearing before federal judges in that state. Both men had to surrender their passports, and their travel was restricted to New England.
For a fee, the duo allegedly found spouses for people who wanted to remain in the U.S. and possibly pursue citizenship. The indictment does not name any of the people who sought spouses or the people Kakande and Mbugua allegedly arranged for illegals to marry.
Kakande is accused of arranging — between Dec. 5, 2003, and June 19, 2007 — nine marriages that took place in Maine, mostly in Lewiston or Auburn. Mbugua, who also used the first name David, was accused of arranging four marriages in Newport between Feb. 22, 2005, and Oct. 26, 2006.
Both men allegedly were involved in arranging two of the Newport weddings.
The scheme apparently came to the attention of the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in April 2006 when someone for whom Mbugua allegedly arranged a marriage admitted the union was a sham.
Of the marriages the two allegedly arranged, seven of the illegal aliens involved were granted conditional residency status after immigration officials interviewed the couples, according to the indictment. In four of the unions, officials determined the marriages were shams. The legitimacy of two others has not been determined.
If convicted, both men face up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000. They could also face deportation if found guilty.