Pastor Joshua Olatokunbo Shonubi of NewLife City Church in Hyattsville, Maryland was arrested on October 20, 2021, and charged with conspiracy to commit marriage and visa fraud as well as presenting false documents to a federal government agency.
According to the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland, the pastor allegedly arranged “approximately 60 fraudulent marriages for foreign nationals and submitted false reference letters on church letterhead and false leases in support of foreign nationals’ applications for permanent residence.”
The pastor was scheduled to appear before Judge J. Mark Coulson in a Baltimore court on October 21, 2021.
Shonubi’s indictment states the pastor started receiving thousands of dollars from foreign nationals as far back as January 2014. The money Shonubi received was in exchange for “arranging [foreign nationals’] marriage to United States citizens who served as their sponsors for permanent residence in the United States.”
On his Facebook page, the 50-year-old pastor posted photos of himself serving the homeless. The indictment argues that he used these activities to “recruit” and “groom” economically disadvantaged U.S. citizens, claiming that Shonubi would bribe them with money and promises of money if they’d marry foreign nationals.
In addition to officiating “fraudulent” marriages, Shonubi wrote reference letters for foreign nationals’ permanent residency applications on NewLife Church letterhead, lying about his relationship to them. The pastor gave false testimony regarding his counseling and spiritual guidance, as well as the arranged couples’ romantic relationship.
The indictment also states that Shonubi falsified rental leases to prove that the couples were living together, when they in fact were not.
The pastor faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in a federal prison if convicted.
“Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s statement said. “A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.”