An American woman from New Jersey has admitted to a federal court to enter a sham marriage with a Nigerian who was living in Pittsburgh so he could become a permanent resident, according to prosecutors.
Ajia Strauss, 28, of Newark, pleaded guilty in Pittsburgh federal court to conspiracy to defraud the United States, Triblive reported.
Strauss entered a guilty plea before United States District Court Judge Marilyn J. Horan.
Strauss and Monsuru Ogunbiyi, a citizen of Nigeria, married on June 3, 2016, in exchange for $1,500, according to court papers. The fake couple later submitted falsified documents and made untrue statements to Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Strauss and Ogunbiyi did other things to make themselves appear a couple — staging photographs, claiming to live together and opening a joint bank account, according to prosecutors.
He filed in December 2017 an application for permanent residency status. But the scheme unraveled as authorities obtained text messages between the pair that showed a discussion about using Strauss’ address “and that they needed to learn more about each other,” according to the indictment.
Ogunbiyi pleaded guilty to the same offense in December and was sentenced to time served. He spent about two and a half months in jail, according to court records.
They were indicted in July 2019. Strauss is now due for sentencing on June 4, 2020, at 10:00 a.m.
In the original indictment by the Department of Justice, Western District of Pennsylvania, presented to the court, “from June 2016 to March 2019, Monsuru Ogunbiyi and Ajia Strauss conspired with one another to defraud the United States.
“Ogunbiyi, a native and citizen of Nigeria, and Strauss, a native and citizen of the United States, agreed to enter into a sham marriage so that Ogunbiyi could obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States. As part of the conspiracy, Ogunbiyi agreed to pay money to Strauss, including $1,500 on the day of their June 3, 2016, marriage in New Jersey. Also as a part of the conspiracy, Ogunbiyi and Strauss submitted false and fraudulent statements and documents to the United States”.