BANGOR, Maine — The Massachusetts man who arranged at least 18 sham marriages more than five years ago between Maine residents and Africans told the federal judge who sentenced him Monday to two years in federal prison that he thought he was helping people become U.S. citizens.
“I apologize to the government,” Rashid Kakande, 38, of Lexington, Mass., told U.S. District Judge John Woodcock shortly before the sentence was imposed. “I wasn’t fully aware of how the laws here and the court worked. I got involved in something wrong. My past has come back to haunt me.”
In addition to prison time, Woodcock ordered Kakande to pay a $20,000 fine, the amount of profit the judge estimated the native of Uganda earned from the scheme. It is likely Kakande will face deportation proceedings after he completes his prison term.
Kakande was convicted by a jury in March in federal court in Portland of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Jurors found that he had paid more than a dozen Maine residents to marry and recruit others to marry immigrants, many of whom had overstayed their visas.
He has been in jail awaiting sentencing since then. That time will be applied to his sentence.
Once married to U.S. citizens, the immigrants then could seek a change in their residency status from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, according to court documents. If a change to conditional resident status is granted, it opens the door for eventual citizenship. After paperwork with immigration had been completed and citizenship granted, the couple in the arranged marriage would divorce, according to court documents.
A second man, James Mbugua, was indicted in July 2010 by a federal grand jury with Kakande. Mbugua, 50, of Springfield, Mass., disappeared last year and is considered a fugitive by the court. He is a native of Kenya.
Many of the people who were recruited to marry Africans testified against Kakande at the trial and have been sentenced to prison terms.
“I don’t believe for a moment that Mr. Kakande didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong,” Woodcock said in imposing the sentence. “He knew it was wrong and he knew it was illegal.”
Woodcock called the Maine residents Kakande recruited for the sham marriages “needy targets” and “troubled individuals living on the edge financially.”
“This country welcomes bright, energetic people,” Woodcock said. “You are not what this country needs. What this country needs most are people who are honest, people who are loyal and people who do not leave in their wakes a trail of pain and misery.”
Kakande faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced between 1½ and two years in prison and a fine of between $4,000 and $40,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone, who prosecuted Kakande and others involved in the scheme, recommended the judge impose a sentence at the high end of the guideline range and a fine of $20,000.
Defense attorney Thomas Greco of Biddeford urged Woodcock to impose a sentence at the low end of the guidelines because Kakande backed out of the conspiracy before the investigation into his activities began.
Greco described his client as a tax-paying citizen with a full-time job as a certified nursing assistant and the father of five children, ranging in age from 1 to 17.
Woodcock said that one of the reasons he imposed a sentence at the top of the guideline range was because the sentencing guidelines did not have a mechanism for calculating the number of marriages arranged fraudulently. Whether Kakande conspired to pay one person or a hundred to marry, he faced the same sentencing range.