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African immigrants plead guilty in sham marriage conspiracy involving Fort Bragg soldiers

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A pair of African immigrants pleaded guilty Tuesday in a conspiracy to arrange sham weddings between Fort Bragg soldiers and foreigners seeking legal status.

Sulemana Ibrahim, 39, came to the United States from Ghana in 2017 on a visitor’s visa that he overstayed, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabriel Diaz.

Through a Fort Bragg soldier also named in the indictment, Sgt. Edward Khumi Anguah, he met a female Army private willing to marry him in exchange for $1,250 and some furniture. Ibrahim would get his green card; the private would get housing benefits available only to married soldiers.

“Anguah stated that he had been involved with numerous sham marriages previously and that he knew what he was doing,” the indictment said. He was assisted by a fellow Ghanaian, Army Spc. Ahmid Muhammed Murtada, also named in the indictment.

The fraud was uncovered, court documents said, when the private was discovered in a sexual relationship with another man despite being married to Ibrahim.

The second defendant Kwaphoom Hoomkwap, 31, came to Fayetteville from New York after overstaying his 2008 student visa from Nigeria, said his attorney, Christian Dysart, in federal court.

In January, Anguah unwittingly met with an undercover agent in a Starbucks near Fort Bragg and set up another marriage to Hoomkwap, who drove down from New York and met the agent at the Cumberland County Courthouse, bringing $6,000.

He was arrested shortly afterward.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle noted Hoomkwap’s visa dated to 2008.

“This is 2019,” Boyle said. “He was going to get an extended PhD?”

The federal Immigration and Nationality Act says that foreign nationals can marry U.S. citizens and become citizens themselves “if the marriage was entered into in good faith; and the United States citizen did not enter into the marriage in exchange for something of value, such as money.”

Both will be sentenced in 30 days. Their attorneys said their punishment appears to fall into the four- to 10-month range. Immigration issues will be dealt with separately.

Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.
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