A grand jury indicted two men Wednesday on charges they were involved in a criminal organization designed to fraudulently wed foreign nationals to soldiers.
The organization involved current and former active duty service members in the Fort Bragg area and foreign nationals primarily from Ghana, Nigeria, and the UK, investigators reported in court documents.
It is not immediately clear just how many were involved in the organization, but court documents suggest at least seven known participants, a number of unknown participants, and the possibility of at least 10-15 fraudulent couples.
Upwards of 10 individuals were issued grand jury subpoenas.
According to the indictments, sham marriages arranged by a middleman offered foreign citizens a path to citizenship and soldiers a chance to live off base and collect thousands of dollars in Basic Allowance for Housing pay.
Joshua Kwame Asane is accused in the indictments of marrying a soldier with the sole intention of gaining legal permanent residency in the U.S.
Charges listed against the 45-year-old Ghanaian citizen are conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, visa fraud, false statement in an immigration proceeding, and preventing testimony of a person in an official proceeding.
He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines if convicted.
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When the fraudulent couple was first wed, court documents report, Army Sgt. Lawrence Oppong-Kyekyeku, stationed at Fort Bragg, submitted a notarized letter to immigration officials attesting to the legitimacy of the relationship. Oppong-Kyekyeku, a naturalized citizen born in Ghana, claimed to have been a close friend to the couple prior to the marriage.
“I have been at their house and seen the love that transpire between them… I have no doubt about the authenticity of this marriage,” Oppong-Kyekyeku’s letter said.
Joshua Asane’s “wife” told investigators that the first time she met her husband-to-be was in front of the Cumberland County Courthouse on the day of their marriage.
Oppong-Kyekyeku is now facing charges of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, and aiding and abetting with a maximum sentence of 10 years and $500,000 in fines if convicted.
Asane’s brother, Ebenezer Yeboah Asane, is accused of being the middleman between soldiers and citizenship-seekers and was arrested in October 2019, court records show.
Army Criminal Investigative Division and Homeland Security’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force were responsible for the investigation. The DBFTF, based in Raleigh, has members from a wide range of state and federal agencies.
Investigators recorded Ebenezer Asane’s attempts to persuade undercover officers to enter into fraudulent marriages with foreign nationals, offering thousands of dollars and bragging about his “100 percent success rate” with at least 10-15 prior couples.
Ebenezer Asane also reportedly told undercover officers that they could report their husbands as living in New York to receive an additional $4,000 per month in BAH.
Joshua Asane’s “wife,” also an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg, provided investigators with information about how a member of her unit had introduced her to Ebenezer Asane, who proposed the idea of a fraudulent marriage to his brother.
“The marriage is not legitimate. We’ve never engaged in sexual relations or any forms of intimacy. I married Joshua to receive BAH to move off post,” the soldier told investigators.
When the Asane brothers became aware of the investigation and the possibility of the soldier being compelled to testify, Ebenezer Asane coached her on how to lie to a grand jury and convince investigators of the legitimacy of their marriage.
The sergeant who posed as Joshua Asane’s wife has not yet been charged.
“After a comprehensive review of all evidence and relevant factors, subjects of investigations are often provided opportunities to mitigate the consequences of their criminal behavior,” a spokesperson for the Eastern District of North Carolina U.S. Attorney’s Office told Military Times when asked if the sergeant would be charged. “In some instances, that may be cooperative conduct that lessens charges to be brought.”
Ebenezer Asane and a number of other foreign nationals who sought to participate in sham marriages are still awaiting indictment.
An indictment is not a determination of guilt but rather a formal accusation resulting from a grand jury investigation. The Asane brothers, Oppong-Kyekyeku, and others have yet to face trials that will determine their guilt.
This isn’t the first case of fraudulent marriages at Fort Bragg. In December 2019, Army Sgt. Edward K. Anguah, a culinary specialist at 3rd Expeditionary Command on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was convicted of conspiring to marry soldiers to immigrants in an exchange of legal residency status for cash and other benefits, like moving out of the barracks and attaining basic housing allowances.
“Although these are legally and factually separate conspiracies, there are links and overlaps between the charged conspiracy involving the Asanes and the Anguah charged conspiracy,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson said.
“These types of crimes threaten the national security and public safety of the U.S. by creating a vulnerability which potentially enables terrorists, other criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States,” the spokesperson said.