An Army sergeant assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has been convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud over his involvement in a ring that arranged marriages between troops and immigrants for legal residency, benefits and cash.
Sgt. Samuel Manu Agyapong, of the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, was found guilty July 2 on charges that included harboring an alien, visa fraud, theft of government property and an attempt to obstruct witness testimony, according to a release Tuesday from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Agyapong, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Ghana, was married to Barbara Oppong, an immigrant from Ghana illegally residing in New York City at the time of their marriage, according to court documents. In the arrangement between the couple, which began in January 2015, Agyapong collected a higher level of Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, based on his marriage, while Oppong received her permanent resident card and filed for U.S. citizenship, the documents state.
According to the release, the couple "seldom, if ever, travelled to see each other nor had they engaged in an actual marital union." Oppong continued to live in New York while Agyapong bought a home near his duty station at Fort Bragg.
Oppong also had two children with another person.
Agyapong's conviction is the latest in a string of indictments and sentences for soldiers involved in the ring.
In 2018, Pvt. Endasia East, also of Fort Bragg, told Army criminal investigators that she was having a romantic relationship with another soldier, even though she was married. Concerned that she was committing adultery -- a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- investigators looked into the circumstances of her arrangement and learned her marriage to Sulemana Ibrahim, a Ghanaian citizen living in New York, was a sham, according to the Justice Department and a report in the Raleigh News & Observer in 2019.
The arrangements were made by former Army Sgt. Edward Anguah, a soldier assigned to 3rd Expeditionary Command at Bragg. Anguah arranged meetings, cash payments for soldiers and the purchases of wedding rings and dresses, and also served as witness to the weddings at the Cumberland County Courthouse, according to the report.
He was convicted in 2019.
Last year, investigators uncovered another alleged marriage scam involving individuals from Ghana, Nigeria and the United Kingdom and troops at Fort Bragg. In that case, a Ghanaian citizen, Joshua Kwame Asane, 45, and Army Sgt. Lawrence Oppong Kyekyeku were indicted on multiple charges that included marriage fraud, according to the Justice Department.
Fraudulent marriages aren't new in the U.S. military, and the Defense Department frequently conducts audits of Basic Allowance for Housing payments to determine whether service members qualify for the amount they receive based on location and marital status.
More than 30 sailors were ensnared in a sham marriage ring designed to increase their benefits in 2008, according to the Justice Department; in 2014, the Army investigated a rising number of Craigslist ads seeking marriage arrangements for cash and benefits.
At least 10 other people have been implicated in the scheme that involved Agyapong. The sergeant, convicted on nine of 11 charges, faces up to 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced Oct. 5.
In May, former Army Sgt. Ebenezer Yeboah Asane was sentenced to 44 months in prison for his role in arranging the marriages.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follower her on Twitter @patriciakime.