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Sham marriage scheme between soldiers and foreign nationals ends in sergeant’s conviction

An Army sergeant was convicted Thursday 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.

The sham marriage ring was facilitated, according to court records, by Sgt. Edward K. Anguah, a culinary specialist at 3rd Expeditionary Command on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Anguah was found guilty of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and fraudulent misuse of visas, permits and other documents. He was found not guilty of a third charge, bringing into the United States and harboring foreign nationals.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

Federal public defenders representing Anguah did not respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon. However, they argued in court filings that Anguah didn’t actually facilitate one of the sham marriages investigated by federal agents.

The scheme came to light in late 2018 after another Fort Bragg-based soldier, Pvt. Endasia East, was interviewed by Army criminal investigators for her romantic relationship with another soldier despite being married, according to a federal complaint filed Jan. 24, 2019.

“It is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a married soldier to engage in sex with someone other than their spouse, thus the concern by the leadership,” the court documents read.

East married Sulemana Ibrahim, a Ghanaian citizen living in New York, in July 2018.

When confronted about the marriage, she willingly told investigators the scope of Anguah’s fraudulent marriage scheme.

During East’s conversations with Anguah, he “made it clear that he had arranged a number of other sham marriages and was well versed with the [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] paperwork required from both the soldier spouses and the alien,” the court filings read.

East approached Anguah after meeting her future fake husband through Spc. Ahmid Mohammed-Murtadaas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ghana serving in the Army as an automated logistical specialist.

Murtadaas wanted to help Ibrahim gain legal residency.

In return for the sham marriage, East kept the basic housing allowance she was entitled to as a married service member, as well as $1,250 to cover two months’ rent at her apartment and another unknown amount to furnish it, according to court filings.

Anguah acted as the facilitator in these types of relationships, the filings state, and would ask East if she knew any other soldiers willing to participate.

After realizing the scope of the crimes, Army Criminal Investigation Command referred the case to the Department of Homeland Security.

Investigators were able to corroborate the allegations through controlled calls between East and Anguah, as well as Fort Bragg gate records that showed Ibrahim visiting East on post five days before his tourist visa was set to expire.

Ibrahim would receive all immigration paperwork through East’s home address, which she was then required to pass along to Anguah. As the facilitator, Anguah would communicate with East through WhatsApp, an encrypted mobile phone application.

Between November and December 2018, East said in court filings that she physically passed numerous documents to Anguah.

During a controlled call with police listening, East broached the subject of bringing a friend into the sham marriage ring.

“Remember when we had that conversation about [sic] you asked if I had a friend that would be interested in doing the same thing that I’m doing with Ibrahim?” East asked, according to court documents.

“Yeah," Anguah responded. East then explained that she had a friend interested in doing just that. “Okay, sounds good. Where is she at?” Anguah asked.

East said her friend would be at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for the holidays, which is close to Fort Bragg.

Anguah responded, “Oh that’s what’s up!” and asked, “Did you already talk to her about how much she gonna charge?”

East said no and Anguah said that he was “going to talk to the guy about it."

In a December court filing, Anguah’s attorney argued that the marriage between East and Ibrahim did not constitute marriage fraud orchestrated by Anguah.

“The government presented no evidence that Mr. Anguah played any role in the formation of Ms. East and Mr. Ibrahim’s marriage,” Katherine E. Shea, an assistant federal public defender, wrote. “The government’s evidence shows that Mr. Anguah did not meet the couple until after their marriage ceremony.”

Shea asked the jury to only consider Anguah’s later conduct in arranging a phony marriage between an undercover officer posing as a soldier and another foreign national.

The scheme began to unfold when an undercover agent later met with Anguah at the Starbucks Coffee shop on the north side of Fort Bragg. During the meeting, Anguah explained the scheme’s requirements, which included staging photographs and fraudulently filling out documents.

Anguah then asked the undercover officer how much she wanted to charge for the arrangement.

“Caught off guard, the UC asked for $800, to which Anguah laughed at the UC and suggested she charge $2,000," the court filings read.

Anguah spoke with the undercover agent on a recorded phone line in January 2019 and told her that he had arranged for a man to marry her and said she would receive $6,000 from him, of which Anguah would also receive a cut.

Anguah also helped coordinate marriage-related issues, like wedding rings and dresses, and the agent agreed to conduct the sham marriage at Cumberland County courthouse, where East had also married Ibrahim with Anguah as a witness.

A federal judge issued a warrant for Anguah’s arrest on Jan. 24, 2019, and he was arrested three days later, according to court records.

Anguah is still on active duty status as a culinary NCO, said Maj. Latisha Reeder, spokeswoman for the command to which he is assigned.

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