Jury convicts Ugandan woman of being part of marriage scam

Posted March 30, 2012, at 1:55 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a Massachusetts woman, who is a native of Uganda, of being part of a marriage scam that paid Mainers to wed people seeking to gain U.S. citizenship.

Jurors found Catherine Nantume, 33, of Woburn, Mass., guilty of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

Her sentencing date has not been set. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Nantume most likely will be deported after she completes her prison term.

She married Timothy Dancsak, 29, of Lewiston two days after she met him in the summer of 2002 in an Auburn park, according to the government’s trial brief. Dancsak was paid $500 to marry Nantume and more money after he attended interviews with immigration officials. The two never lived together, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone asserted in her brief.

Nantume denied paying Dancsak to marry her and claimed the marriage was a love match, according to the trial brief filed by her attorney, David Van Dyke of Lewiston. She told investigators she met Dancsak in 2002 at a New Year’s Eve party at the home of Rashid Kakande, 39, of Lexington, Mass. Kakande arranged the marriage between Nantume and Dancsak for a fee, according to court documents.

Nantume is the only defendant charged in the marriage scam besides Kakande who chose to go to trial.

The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes after a three-day trial before announcing its verdict on the charge against Nantume, according to Malone.

The federal prosecutor declined to comment further on the case. It is the practice of the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to comment on cases until after they have been resolved.

“We both respect the jury’s verdict but the family’s disappointed because she’s exactly the kind of person who would contribute to this society,” Van Dyke said Friday.

The attorney described Nantume as a “law-abiding citizen who’s worked at a number of jobs that involve the exercise of good judgment.”

Nantume is one of more than two dozen people charged in U.S District Court in Maine with being part of a scheme that paired Africans living in Massachusetts with residents of Maine. Americans most often were paid between $500 and $5,000 to marry citizens of Uganda and other African nations, according to court documents.

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, the documents said. 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. Nantume and Dancsak, however, still are married, according to court documents.

Kakande was sentenced in June in federal court in Bangor to two years in prison for masterminding the marriage fraud scheme. The native of Uganda was convicted by a federal jury a year ago 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, as Nantume had.

Kakande, who is scheduled to be released from prison to immigration officials in December, testified against Nantume.

A second man, James Mbugua, was indicted in July 2010 by a federal grand jury with Kakande. Mbugua, 51, 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. Neither Dancsak nor Jennifer Michelle Harmon, the woman with whom he lived and had two children while married to Nantume, have been charged with being part of the conspiracy. Harmon, who testified at the trial earlier this week, married Nantume’s cousin Sekandi Alex Kayanja in 2005, according to court documents. Kayanja has not been charged either.

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