CAMDEN, N.J. – A New Jersey man was sentenced Friday to twenty four months in prison for providing immigration documents involving sham marriages and attempting to deposit a fraudulent tax return check of more than $100,000. The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Maxwell Poku, 36, of Union, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty to one count each of immigration fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
According to court documents, Poku was the president and CEO of Max$Max Finance and Travel LLC (Max$Max), a business with offices in Elizabeth, and Orange, New Jersey, and overseas in Ghana. Max$Max purported to offer immigration consultation and other services to the African community.
Poku admitted that he helped numerous individuals obtain immigration benefits to which they were not entitled by filing documents that falsely reflected that they were married to United States citizens. Poku admitted that he paid individuals to act as sham spouses and provided fraudulent letters of employment, utility bills, credit card statements, W-2 forms and tax return transcripts, which he downloaded and altered, to demonstrate the marital status of the immigrant petitioners.
Poku used forged Ghanaian government stamps, which he obtained from a store in New Jersey, as well as blank Ghanaian birth certificates. He used an iron and coffee to give the documents an aged appearance.
The money laundering count arose from an entirely separate scheme in which Poku came into possession of a refund check for $115,138 that was issued as a result of a fraudulent tax return. Poku admitted he incorporated a business entity in the state of New Jersey named “Brian Robinson Equipment Sales LLC,” opened a bank account at Sovereign Bank under that name, and deposited the refund check into the account. The sum was recovered by law enforcement before it could be withdrawn.
As part of the plea, Poku must forfeit to the United States $10,500, and computer media and equipment seized from Max$Max on the day of his arrest on August 10, 2012.
In addition to the prison term, Poku was sentenced three years of supervised release and a fine of $75,000.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the U.S. Secret Service assisted in the investigation.