An immigration official who worked in California and Maryland has been charged with fabricating an identity and a family tragedy in order to obtain asylum and US citizenship.
Modestus Nwagubwu Ifemembi, who for seven years worked for Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was arrested this week by federal agents in Maryland. He faces a charge of have naturalized submitting false information.
If this 48-year-old man from Nigeria, Africa, is found guilty, he would spend up to ten years in prison, the federal prosecutor’s office reported. The indictment alleges that Ifemembi used a false name and told several lies to customs officials 21 years ago to allow him to stay in the United States.
He assured them that his mother and brother had been murdered in Sierra Leone, that he took refuge in Nigeria for a time and was finally able to travel using a passport that was not his in a desperate attempt to escape Africa.
He began to have his network of deceptions on March 16, 2000, when he arrived at Chicago O’Hare airport on a flight from France. At customs he presented the passport of an Englishman identified as ‘Karlos GE’. But when analyzing the document, the authorities discovered that the photo of the defendant was superimposed and detained him.
Ifemembi then assured that “some whites and blacks in Paris” offered him that passport and took a photograph of him so that he could enter the United States illegally. He said his real name was ‘Karlos Mourfy’, that he had been a refugee in Nigeria and that this prevented him from applying for a visa.
“He said he was born in Sierra Leone, where his mother and brother had been killed. He said he came to the United States to seek asylum and continue his education, ”says an affidavit written by Carlos Feliciano, a special agent for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
How did you enter Migration
For a month he was in an immigration jail and then their asylum case was approved. Since then he has lived in the United States under the name ‘Karlos Mourfy’. He wore it upon graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 2004 and receiving a degree from the University of Oregon School of Law in 2008.
When applying for US citizenship in 2011, he asked to change his name to one that used his real last names: ‘Karl Nwabugwu Odike Ifemembi’. Two years later got a job as an immigration officer in Los Angeles California. Ironically, his wife works at the USCIS fraud detection directorate.
As part of the routine investigation process to which federal employees are subjected, this man indicated that he decided to stop calling himself ‘Karlos Mourfy’ to return to “the original family name,” according to court documents.
The prosecution also claims that he lied in his process to enter the USCIS.
It is not clear how the government found out about this alleged fraud. The Prosecutor’s Office points out that federal agents undertook a multi-year investigation that led them to review documents in two African countries and interview people who knew the suspect on that continent.
They rummaged through school records, church files, and even the morgue database.
His half-brother ended up turning him on his head and confessed to detectives that in 1998 he submitted a petition so that Ifemembi could legally emigrate to the United States. There he put his true details, including that they were both sons of a deceased “traditional” leader in his village in Akuma, Nigeria.
On February 7, 2019, investigators searched Ifemembi’s home in Aliso Viejo, Southern California. They seized several documents that contain his real name, such as a high school diploma, letters, photos and financial reports. In his room was the obituary of his father.
Knowing that they had him under scrutiny, Ifemembi last year applied for his change to the USCIS office in Rockville, Maryland. In that state they took him into custody this week.
In a brief statement sent to Univision Noticias, the USCIS said it would not report on the tasks performed by the defendant in that agency. The indictment indicates that he was an “immigration officer” since July 2013. “The USCIS is aware and cooperates fully with the authorities ”, said his spokesman Joe Sowers. “We hold our employees to the highest standards of conduct,” he added.
Ifemembi was presented Wednesday in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland. This case was also investigated by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).