Sharing is caring!Facebook1Twitter0Google+0Pinterest0 Two men who orchestrated sham marriage scam in the UK have been jailed. Martin Okoko, 31, a Nige...
Two men who orchestrated sham marriage scam in the UK have been jailed. Martin Okoko, 31, a Nigerian national and a 45-year-old Cameroonian national organised bogus weddings in an attempt to by-pass immigrations rules.
The marriages between Hungarians, Nigerians and Cameroonians took place in Gretna and Leicester between 2007 and 2012. Odume also took part in a fake marriage of his own in order to gain residency in the UK.
Sarah Knight, prosecuting, told Leicester Crown Court the pair were caught following an inquiry by Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations officers, which began when intelligence was received that Okoko was arranging sham marriages from a shop he ran in Woodgate, Leicester.
There were also separate reports from registrars in Gretna of suspicious marriages involving individuals from the Leicester area. At the end of a six week trial, a jury found Okoko, of Aikman Avenue, New Parks, Leicester, guilty of two offences of assisting unlawful immigration and Odume, of Loughborough Road, Leicester, of three counts. Odume was jailed for five years, and Okoko for four years.
The court heard that the two men sourced Hungarian ‘brides’ and ‘grooms’ for bogus weddings, and arranged for them to fly to the UK to take part.
Miss Knight said the marriages were later used as the basis for applications for leave to remain and work in the UK, and the pair produced and supplied fake paperwork such as payslips and employer references to support the applications.
Individuals were charged a minimum of £3,000 for the sham services. Judge Robert Brown said:
“There’s very real and understandable public concern over breaches in immigration law.”
He said the organisers committed the scam for “pure greed”, but said Okoko, who saw it as an opportunity to make money when his business was failing, was “slightly lesser involved than Odume”.
Odume qualified as a doctor in Nigeria and a reference praising his former work at Leicester Royal Infirmary was read out in court.
Two brides and a groom involved in taking part in the weddings were also sentenced for one count each of assisting in unlawful immigration.
Kelechi Osuchukwu (36), formerly of Kelvin Road, Walsall, a Nigerian national, failed to attend court for his trial and was convicted and sentenced in his absence to three years imprisonment. A warrant was issued for this arrest and the judge said he faced a consecutive term for absconding.
Mother-of-one Blandine Tietchem (31), a Cameroon national, of Millwood Close, off Thurcaston Road, Leicester, who was a nurse in a Leicester-based intensive care unit, wept as she was jailed for two years, having been convicted by the jury.
Hungarian national Ramona Horvath (25), of no fixed address, who is due to give birth in February, pleaded guilty and gave evidence during the trial for the prosecution. She was given an eight month sentence. The judge said they all faced deportation.
In mitigation, counsel said those who paid for a sham wedding had been trying to remain in the UK to obtain work and have a better life. Afterwards, Andy Radcliffe, from Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations, said: “Our main aim is to identify the organisers, like Odume and Okoko, who profit from – and fuel the demand for – sham marriages, destroy their criminal business and put them behind bars.
“The Home Office is taking strong action to crack down on sham marriages and this was a thorough and successful investigation by our team of specialist investigators. Our message could not be clearer – we will not tolerate immigration abuse and offenders will be dealt with.”
“A sham marriage or civil partnership typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK.”
Source: Leicester Mercury