PORTLAND, Maine — A citizen of Kenya was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to time served — about six weeks — in jail for entering into a sham marriage in 2005, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Annie Njoroge, 49, of Lowell, Mass., pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. By pleading guilty she admitted she paid Albert White, 50, of Newport to marry her on March 24, 2005, in Nashua, N.H.
In addition to jail time, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Njoroge to one year of supervised release.
Deportation proceedings in immigration court in Boston are pending against Njoroge, according to documents filed in federal court in Bangor.
Njoroge is one of nearly 30 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.
The marriage scam was hatched by two Massachusetts men.
Rashid Kakande , 40, of Lexington, Mass., was sentenced in June 2011 in federal court in Bangor to two years in prison for masterminding the marriage fraud scheme. He was released in August 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Inmate Locator website.
The native of Uganda was convicted by a federal jury in March 2011 of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Jurors found that Kakande had paid more than a dozen Maine residents to marry and recruit others to marry immigrants, many of whom had overstayed their visas, as Njoroge had.
Kakande testified against Nantume.
A second man, James Mbugua, was indicted in July 2010 by a federal grand jury along with Kakande. Mbugua, 52, of Springfield, Mass., disappeared last year and is considered a fugitive by the court. He is a native of Kenya.
Three other sham marriage cases are pending against Massachusetts residents accused of paying Mainers to marry them, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. All are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and face up to five years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000. The three remain free on $25,000 unsecured bail.
The defendants, whose visas to remain in the U.S. had expired, allegedly paid Maine residents to marry them in order to gain permanent legal residency status more quickly.
Jecinta Wambui Ngige, 38, of Attleboro, Mass., was indicted by a federal grand jury in June. She pleaded not guilty to the charge in November after being arrested in Massachusetts.
A native of Kenya, she allegedly entered into a sham marriage Jan. 30, 2004, in Lewiston. She divorced the man, who is not named in court documents, three years later.
Ngige’s attorney, Mary A. Davis of Portland, has filed a motion to dismiss the indictment because the statute of limitations had expired. Davis argued that more than five years had passed between the date her divorce became final in April 2007 and the date of the indictment in June 2012. Federal prosecutors have not yet filed a response to the motion.
Ngige is scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Portland on March 4.
Grace Nyaga, 31, of Lowell, Mass., allegedly married a Maine man, who is not named in court documents, at Auburn City Hall on April 5, 2004. A citizen of Uganda, Nyaga filed for divorce in Massachusetts in 2006 after the man refused to attend interviews with immigration officials.
She was indicted in July and arraigned in November in federal court in Portland. Her case has been delayed because of the birth of a child in December, according to court documents.
Emmanuel Musiitwa, 60, of Woburn, Mass., married a Maine woman on Aug. 9, 2002, in Waltham, Mass. He was indicted Feb. 16, 2012, by a federal grand jury. He was arraigned in November in federal court in Portland.
A citizen of Uganda, Musiitwa divorced the woman, who has not been charged in federal court, four years later in Massachusetts. The divorce became final on Feb. 28, 2006, according to court documents.
He is scheduled to go on trial in June.