Hyattsville pastor arranged fake marriages to get foreign nationals for permanent residence: prosecutors

A Maryland pastor is facing federal charges for allegedly scheming to arrange marriages between what prosecutors say were often poor Americans and foreign nationals, according to the Department of Justice.

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Joshua Olatkunbo Shonubi – the pastor at NewLife City Church in Hyattsville – has been indicted on charges including conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and visa fraud for presenting false documents to a federal government agency, the Department of Justice says.

Prosecutors say the 50-year-old Shonubi, of Bowie, was charging foreign nationals thousands of dollars in exchange for facilitating their marriage to Americans in an effort to give them permanent residence in the United States.

They say Shonubi – often taking advantage of his role as a pastor – "groomed" people, including some who were economically disadvantaged, with payments and promises of more money in exchange for marring foreign nationals, then sponsoring them for permanent residence.

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Shonubi allegedly officiated some of the marriages, or arranged for civil marriage ceremonies in Virginia.

In addition, prosecutors claim Shonubi created and signed at least 38 letters of reference on NewLife letterhead to support the foreign nationals’ marriage applications.

He also allegedly created at least 34 fake rental leases listing Jaypro, a company he founded in 2015, as landlord, to provide proof that the couples were living together. Law enforcement says the couples were actually living separately.

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FOX 5 has not been able to reach Shonubi by phone or at his home in Bowie.

Shonubi could face a maximum of five years in 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.