APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND [Hon. John J. McConnell, Jr., U.S.
J. Drake and Drake Law LLC on brief for appellant.
C. Lockhart, Assistant United States Attorney, and Stephen G.
Dambruch, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.
Lynch, Selya, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
Abiodun Akanni challenges the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting his conviction for marriage fraud in violation of
8 U.S.C. § 1325(c), which prohibits "knowingly
enter[ing] into a marriage for the purpose of evading any
provision of the immigration laws." He does not
challenge his felony convictions for making false statements
to immigration officials. We affirm.
evidence presented at Akanni's bench trial included the
following facts. A citizen of Nigeria, Akanni entered the
United States in 2003 on a six-month visa. In 2005, two weeks
after he was arrested for overstaying his visa, he married an
American citizen. Akanni applied for permanent resident
status on the basis of that marriage. In 2009, his
application was denied after his then-wife withdrew her
supporting petition, and the two divorced.
later, Akanni applied for asylum. In February 2013, two
months before his asylum application was denied, Akanni
married Terri Allen, another American citizen whom he had met
a couple of months earlier. They had separate apartments.
Akanni never informed Allen before their marriage that he was
subject to deportation. When, in May 2013, Allen moved into a
new apartment that she intended to be the marital abode,
Akanni deposited some of his clothes there and spent only
three or four nights a week there. He purported to be at a
"friend's house" or at "work" during
the remainder of the week. Unbeknownst to Allen, another
woman, Olufunke Babatunde, with whom Akanni would later have
a child, was living with him in his apartment and had been
since 2011. Allen soon suspected Akanni of infidelity, and
the two separated within a few months.
the separation, Akanni again applied for permanent resident
status in November 2013, and Allen, fearing he would be
deported, acquiesced in his request that she file a
supporting petition and pretend that their marriage was still
intact. In separate interviews before an immigration officer
in September 2014, Akanni and Allen falsely stated under oath
that they still resided together (when they had not for a
year), and gave various inconsistent answers on other
matters. The immigration officer referred Akanni and
Allen's case to his department's fraud unit.
2015, immigration officers, following up on that referral,
visited the purported couple's purported marital abode.
There, they met with and interviewed Allen. Allen informed
them that she and Akanni were separated, and she then took
the opportunity to withdraw her petition supporting his
application for permanent residency. Allen also told the
officers that the last time she had heard from Akanni -- by
phone, "a while ago" --he had said that he was
traveling out-of-state. That same day, the officers
confronted Akanni at his apartment, the mailbox for which
listed the names "Akanni" and
"Babatunde." Under oath, Akanni falsely stated both
orally and in writing that he was still residing with Allen,
that Babatunde was his sister, and that he was staying with
Babatunde because of a fight he had had with Allen just
"yesterday." He also admitted that he had adopted a
friend's name as an alias and used the friend's
social security and identity cards to obtain employment.
was charged with the crimes of making multiple false
statements to immigration officials and engaging in marriage
fraud to evade the immigration laws. On the day set for his
trial, he attempted to flee to Canada. He was detained the
following morning by border patrol officials after he was
caught trying to use another person's U.S. passport to
cross the border.
resolving Akanni's sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge,
"[w]e draw all reasonable evidentiary inferences in
harmony with the verdict and resolve all issues of
credibility in the light most favorable to the
government." United States v. Grace, 367 F.3d 29, 34
(1st Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. Casas, 356 F.3d
104, 126 (1st Cir. 2004)). We ask only whether "a
rational trier of fact could have found [guilt] beyond a
reasonable doubt." United States v. Dunston, 851 F.3d
91, 98 (1st Cir. 2017). Considered in its totality, the
evidence presented in this case amply supported the district
court's "absolute conclu[sion]" that Akanni
duped Allen into marrying him in order to avoid deportation.
Akanni's appellate brief would have us repeatedly draw
implausible exculpatory inferences from a series of facts
that overwhelmingly establish his deceitfulness and
culpability. That we cannot do.
also argues for the first time on appeal that a § 1325
marriage fraud conviction requires findings that the
defendant lacked an intent to "establish a life"
with his spouse and that the defendant's "sole
purpose" in getting married was to evade the immigration
laws. The government asks us to reject both the
"establish a life" and the "sole purpose"
tests. We leave these issues for another day. On the facts
presented, drawing all reasonable evidentiary inferences and
credibility assessments in the government's favor, the
trier of fact could reasonably have ...