RALEIGH, N.C. – Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, announced that a federal grand jury in Raleigh has returned an indictment charging Levan Lomtatidze, 44, a citizen of the country of Georgia; Melissa Anne Godshall, 31, a citizen of the United States; and Robert J. Kennerley, 46, a citizen of the United States, with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, aiding and abetting, visa fraud and false statements in immigration proceedings.
The indictment alleges that Godshall and Kennerley, who were romantically involved, were panhandling for money on the side of the road in Granville County, North Carolina. An individual approached them and asked Godshall if she would be willing to marry a foreign-born national for money. Godshall agreed to engage in the marriage to Lomtatidze in exchange for $12,000, housing and a vehicle. Lomtatidze and Godshall got married in Granville County, North Carolina. The marriage ceremony was witnessed by Kennerley and another individual.
Lomtatidze, Godshall and Kennerley entered into a rental agreement for a house in Raleigh, North Carolina. The rent was paid for by Lomtatidze as part of the payment for the sham marriage. Thereafter, Godshall and Lomtatidze submitted fraudulent applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting Lomtatidze’s adjustment of status as a lawful permanent resident in the United States. Lomtatidze and Godshall were interviewed at the USCIS office in Durham, North Carolina. Both attested under oath they were married in good faith. As a result of the interview, USCIS approved the request and Lomtatidze was granted “conditional” resident status in the United States. Later, Lomtatidze and Godshall submitted to USCIS another application attesting they were still married in good faith and requesting Lomtatidze’s removal of conditions from his resident status.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, visa fraud, and false statements in immigration proceedings, Lomtatidze and Godshall would each face maximum penalties of 30 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, and aiding and abetting marriage fraud, Kennerley would face maximum penalties of 10 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
The case was investigated by the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) in the Eastern District of North Carolina led by Homeland Security Investigations and assisted by USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.
USCIS staffers began investigations in the case in 2016 after being contacted by ICE. This year USCIS members of DBFTF provided additional document research, systems checks, and interviews of suspects.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.