COLUMBUS, Ohio - A local immigration attorney and her associate were both sentenced on Friday to two years probation for illegally marrying U.S. citizens for the sole purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws. The convictions make them both eligible for deportation.
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Detroit (ICE) announced the sentences handed down Jan. 15 by U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost.
Lilian Asante, 37, and her associate, Kwadwo Asante, 39 both pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2009 to one count of illegally marrying to evade immigration laws. Kwadwo Asante admitted to marrying a U.S. citizen from Youngstown, Ohio, in a civil ceremony in Franklin County in January 2005. Lilian Asante admitted marrying a U.S. citizen from Florida in a civil ceremony in Franklin County in February 2006. Each defendant admitted that they illegally married the U.S. citizens as part of their plan to obtain U.S. permanent residence status.
Based on these felony convictions, both were immediately entered in to deportation proceedings. They both elected to a stipulated order of removal, which effectively waives their right to a hearing before a federal immigration judge and begins the removal process.
When the defendants were interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the process of obtaining U.S. permanent residence status, agents began to suspect the fraudulent marriages and referred the matter for criminal investigation.
The Asantes had been married to each other in Ghana in 1999. They entered the United States legally in 2002, and dissolved their marriage in 2004.
"It is disturbing that anyone would defraud the very system in which they work" said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Michigan and Ohio. "Immigration attorneys hold positions of public trust and are critical to the workings of our nation's immigration system. Based on this felony conviction, both subjects are now amenable to removal proceedings."
U.S. Attorney Stewart commended the investigation by ICE agents and Assistant U.S. Attorney Salvador A. Dominguez, who prosecuted the case.