Maryland pastor facing federal charges for arranging 60 fraudulent marriages in citizenship scheme

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A Maryland pastor was indicted this week for allegedly arranging fraudulent marriages of foreign nationals with American citizens to give them permanent residence in the United States in exchange for thousands of dollars, the Department of Justice says.

Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi, a 50-year-old pastor at NewLife City Church, Inc. in Hyattsville, allegedly arranged 60 fraudulent marriages between January 2014 and January 2021 to secure permanent residence for foreigners, according to the indictment, ABC 7News reported.

The indictment alleges that Shonubi, “often utilizing his role as pastor of NewLife, directly or through others, recruited and groomed U.S. citizens, including economically disadvantaged citizens, with payments and promises of money in exchange for marrying foreign nationals, then sponsoring the foreign nationals for permanent residence in the United States through USCIS,” the Justice Department said.

The accused also allegedly gave dozens of reference letters on his church’s letterhead for the foreign nationals’ application for permanent residence, “falsely stating: his relation to the parties; the nature of the marriage; his role in providing spiritual guidance or counseling; and his belief as to the romantic nature of the marriage,” according to the seven-count indictment.

Shonubi also allegedly created fake rental leases showing his company, Jaypro, as landlord to falsely prove that the couples were living together.

“If convicted, Shonubi faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and marriage fraud and a maximum of five years in federal prison for each of six counts of presenting false documents to a federal government agency,” the Justice Department added.

In April, a pastor in Washington, D.C., was arrested for fraudulently obtaining more than $1.5 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, which he then splurged on personal expenses, including 39 cars.

Pastor Rudolph Brooks Jr., founder and senior pastor of the Kingdom Tabernacle of Restoration Ministries, was arrested after federal authorities seized some $2.2 million he deposited in various bank accounts as well as a 2018 Tesla Model 3.

Court papers alleged that Brooks applied for a PPP loan on behalf of his company Cars Direct on May 9, 2020, in the amount of $1,556,589. To support his application, the pastor allegedly submitted fraudulent tax forms showing $724,469 in payments via Forms 1099-MISC and $7,471,630 in total unemployment payments to employees from Cars Direct.

His church’s website described him as “a man after God's own heart and has a passion for God's people.”

“Pastor Brooks desires to see believers grow spiritually and desires to see the church function according to the word of the Lord. His intense love for the Lord, relentless spirit and ability to tap into the very heart of God make him a memorable speaker. With his love for God and lively preaching style, which can hold even the skeptics’ attention, Pastor Brooks speaks and shares the heart of God with compassion and conviction,” the church noted.

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