Sgt. Edward Anguah has been remanded into federal custody until a Jan. 31 hearing, according to court documents, while arrest warrants have been issued for Spc. Ahmid Mohammed-Murtadaas and two Ghanaian nationals for their role in the scheme.
“We take allegations of misconduct seriously and it is important for everyone on our team to live and demonstrate the Army Values every day,” Lt. Col. Michael Burns, XVIII Airborne Corps spokesman, told Army Times on Monday.
Anguah faces charges of marriage fraud, aiding and abetting, and fraud and misuse of visas, according to a federal complaint filed Jan. 24.
The arrangement came to light in late 2018, after Pvt. Endasia East, who is assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, came under Army criminal investigation for having a sexual relationship with a single soldier, according to the complaint.
East had been married to a Ghanaian citizen, Sulemana Ibrahim, since July 24. But the marriage was a business arrangement, she told investigators, wherein she was paid to marry him in exchange for sponsoring his legal residency in the U.S.
Army Criminal Investigation Command referred the case to the Homeland Security Department, who first interviewed East on Dec. 27.
East met Ibrahim through Mohammed-Murtadaas, himself a naturalized citizen from Ghana, an automated logistical specialist in her unit.
Mohammed-Murtadaas proposed that she marry Ibrahim, who was living in New York at the time, according to the affadavit.
In return she would get to keep the basic allowance for housing she would be entitled to because of the marriage, as well as $1,250 to cover two months' rent at her apartment and an additional, unknown amount to furnish it, according to court documents.
Records indicate that Ibrahim visited Fort Bragg on July 23, when the couple were first introduced, five days before his tourist visa expired.
The following day, Ibrahim, East and Mohammed went to the Cumberland County courthouse to make it official, along with a witness named in the complaint only as “D.M.”
That evening, she told the investigator, they were joined for dinner by Anguah, known as the “facilitator," who would help them navigate the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service paperwork for legal residency.
Anguah is a culinary specialist at 3rd Expeditionary Command, Burns told Army Times.
“Pvt. East stated during their conversation, Sgt. Anguah made it clear that he had arranged a number of other sham marriages and was well versed with the USCIS paperwork required from both the soldier and spouses and the alien,” according to the complaint.
The three men told East she would have to stage photos with Ibrahim, she told the investigator, to make it look like they were in a real relationship. She also gave Anguah copies of her birth certificate and tax documents, then met up with him to practice going over questions that immigration authorities would ask to authenticate the marriage.
And once she moved out of the barracks, according to the complaint, Anguah and Ibrahim were upset that she could not get Ibrahim’s name put on her apartment lease because he didn’t have a social security number and couldn’t complete a background check.
They also wanted Ibrahim’s name on her next-of-kin documents and on her Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance, she said, to make everything look legitimate.
A Marine's conviction for arranging a "contract marriage" was overturned on appeal due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
“East stated she placed Ibrahim on her Record of Emergency Data, but placed her brother as the sole recipient of her life insurance payout, citing she was not going to award Ibrahim any money in the event of her death,” according to the complaint.
Anguah also asked her to find more soldiers who would be interested in the scheme, she said. On Jan. 11, Homeland Security sent an undercover agent to meet Anguah at a Starbucks near post.
They made a plan to head to the courthouse on Jan. 25 so she could marry another immigrant, Kawaphoom Hoomkwap.
Anguah said he would take a cut of the $6,000 fee he had arranged, and that he would cover a wedding dress and a ring, discussing the plan in multiple recorded phone calls after the in-person meeting.
A federal judge issued a warrant for Anguah’s arrest on Jan. 24, and according to court documents, he was arrested on Monday.
“We are not at liberty to discuss any details pertaining to this case, as it is under investigation,” Burns said. "We are cooperating with local authorities and will provide any support required for the investigation.”