Maryland corrections officer accused of leading double life

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Scott McCabe

Federal agents have arrested a Maryland corrections officer on immigration charges, accusing him of marrying his sister to fraudulently obtain a green card after he already had been deported once.

Marcus Akwecheh Onekon, 44, of Hyattsville, was charged with fraud, unlawful procurement of citizenship and related charges.

Erin Julius, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Onekon has been placed on unpaid leave from his job as a guard at the Brockbridge Correctional Facility in Jessup.

Julius said the state requires potential employees who are foreign nationals to submit immigration papers.

"If they appear legitimate as required by law, we accept them," Julius said. "To do otherwise could be an unfair immigration-related employment practice."

According to federal court documents filed last week, Onekon already had been deported once from the United States. In 1995, he was stopped at Washington Dulles International Airport with a fake passport. His application to stay in the U.S. was denied two years later, and he was placed on a plane back to central Africa.

In 2005, his sister, a naturalized United States citizen, filed a petition to have her fiance enter the U.S. to marry her. But the groom-to-be was really her brother, prosecutors said.

Immigration officials approved her petition, and Onekon, using the identity Marcus Akwecheh Ufuoka, married his sister in Upper Marlboro on May 23, 2005.

Authorities said the marriage was a sham. Under U.S. immigration laws, an immigrant can stay in the country by marrying a U.S. citizen.

Two weeks after their marriage, Onekon filed to become a lawful permanent resident as a spouse of a U.S. citizen. His application was approved in January 2006.

Last year, he and his sister got a divorce. The divorce wouldn't necessarily change his immigration status, and he could have stayed in the country on his green card.

But in December, he applied to become a naturalized citizen, a move that likely revealed his fake identity.

Dan Cosgrove, of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said U.S. citizenship comes with additional privileges such as the ability to vote in U.S. elections, the ability to more quickly bring family members to the U.S., and to obtain citizenship for children born abroad or obtain federal jobs.

Onekon appeared before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for an interview in April, and it was about this time that ICE officials were asked to investigate.

He was arrested Sept. 26 and has been in federal custody since.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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