Two Czech, four Nigerian and one Slovakian national, who were at the heart of an international marriage scam in West Yorkshire have today received jail sentences of 13 years (two years suspended) after pleading guilty at Leeds Crown Court.
Their convictions followed a co-ordinated set of high-profile arrests earlier this summer (20 July 2009) across West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester in an operation led by the UK Border Agency's Immigration Crime Team and supported by West Yorkshire Police.
Many of those arrested were apprehended heading for the West Yorkshire churches of St Philip and St James in Scholes and St Lukes in Cleckheaton, just hours before they were due to tie the knot.
The investigation began when UK Border Agency officers received allegations from the Diocesan Registrar who had become suspicious after a sudden spate of applications for marriage, as well as the legitimacy of documentation submitted that pointed towards fake addresses being used.
The UK Border Agency's Immigration Crime Team, made up of Immigration enforcement officers and seconded police detectives, then stepped and launched its investigation into what appeared to be 'marriages of convenience' otherwise known as sham marriages.
During a covert investigation, it was, discovered that Adeola Orobiyi, a Nigerian national, was a central figure in the conspiracy. He was found to be heavily involved in making arrangements for a number of marriages of convenience, providing fake documents and false passports, which were used to establish identity and the status of foreign nationals in the UK. He also arranged transportation for those who intended to marry to see the Diocesan Registrar and to attend various meetings with the clergy. A number of forged Nigerian Passports were also recovered from his house as well as numerous identity cards and the passports of Eastern Europeans together with many other incriminating documents.
The moment the wedding plans were set for 11am and 12pm on Monday 20 July, joint teams of around 80 officers from the UK Border Agency and West Yorkshire Police, moved in on the seven in a closely co-ordinated operation that saw arrests made at a number of different addresses in the Bradford and Manchester areas.
DCI Dave Powell, Regional Head of the UK Border Agency's Immigration Crime Team that led the investigation said:
"This was a serious attempt to facilitate illegal entry into the UK for a number of Individuals by a well organised criminal network. Once again we would send out the message to those who seek to engage in Immigration related crime, this team poses a major threat to crime groups and will continue to target them and bring them to justice. I am delighted with the results achieved today which is testament to the work done by our joint team.
Welcoming today's convictions, the UK Border Agency's Regional Director for the North East, Yorkshire and The Humber, Jeremy Oppenheim said:
"I am very pleased with the sentences handed down today. The regional Immigration Crime Team's successful operation should prove a clear deterrent to others thinking of perpetrating immigration crime here in the UK - we will not tolerate this type of abuse of our immigration system.
"Over recent years we have clamped down on sham marriages which is why suspected sham marriages have fallen from over 3,500 in 2004 to under 400 in 2008. Steps will be taken to remove all seven convicted today from the UK once they have served their sentences."
Tom Klouda from the Complex Casework Unit at CPS West Yorkshire said:
"This was a high profile, complex and challenging case and we worked closely with colleagues at West Yorkshire Police and the UK Border Agency to ensure that these defendants were brought to justice. Their sentencing today sends out a clear message to anyone planning to abuse the immigration system in this way that no stone will be left unturned in bringing the perpetrators to justice."
- Adeola Orobiyi, [Nigerian], of 31 Lilly Lane Manchester pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Assist Unlawful Immigration; Possession of a False Identity Document with Intent and received three-and-a-half years imprisonment.
- Dennis Baiger, [Czech national] of 170 St Leonards Road,Bradford pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Assist Unlawful Immigration and the controlled supply of heroin, he received four-and-a-half years imprisonment.
- Lucia Koncekova, [Slovakian ] of 3 Dalcross Grove Bradford pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Assist Unlawful Immigration and received a 12 months suspended sentence.
- Richard Okunade, [Nigerian] of 12 Bowfield Walk Manchester pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Assist Unlawful Immigration and received 12 months imprisonment.
- Veronika Horvathova, [Czech national] of 29 Regency Court Bradford pleaded guilty guilty to Conspiracy to Assist Unlawful Immigration; Possession of a False Identity Document, and received a 12 months suspended sentence.
- Peter Abbey, [Nigerian] 27 Strickland Avenue, Dartford, Kent pleaded guilty to possession of a False Identity Document with Intent; Making a False Statement with reference to Marriage and received 12 months imprisonment.
- Adesola Adewole, [Nigerian] of 15 Fram Street, Manchester pleaded guilty to Possession of a False Identity Document with Intent; Making a False Statement with reference to Marriage; Possession of False Identity Documents with Intent, and received 12 months imprisonment.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Anyone with information about those involved in immigration crime should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
A comment is available from the Wakefield Diocese. Please contact their Director of Communications, Jane Bower on: 01924 371802 or 07912 485618
1. The UK Border Agency was launched on 3 April 2008 by the Home Office, establishing a single force to protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and make quick and fair decisions on asylum claims.
2. The North East, Yorkshire and the Humber Immigration Crime Team was set up in April 2008 and is one of several regional teams. These specialist teams of seconded police officer and the UK Border Agency staff have been set up to investigate crime, and prosecute those behind it.
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