A Nigerian woman and mother-of-four attended her partner’s wedding to another woman – moments before assuming the bride’s identity in a sophisticated immigration scam.
Illegal immigrant Esther Ogunrinde, 30, even took her daughter – one of the four children she had with the groom – to the ceremony, in Moston, Greater Manchester.
The ‘bride’, 28-year-old Zunica Sabina, was an EU national, who have the right to live, work and claim benefits in any member country, to marry Nigerian Olukayode Olusanya, 34, a court was told.
But minutes after posing for photographs, Sabina flew back to her native Holland with the £3,000 she had been paid for her part.
She left behind documents which were used by Ogunrinde to assume her identity.
The scheme meant Ogunrinde and her new ‘husband’ Olusanya could find work and avoid deportation.
The marriage even gave Olusanya the right under British law to remain in the country despite him being a failed asylum seeker from Nigeria.
Ogunrinde fooled three employers using an ID card which Sabina had left behind and declared as lost, in a scheme that lasted for three years before they were caught out.
On a previous visit, the sham bride had even set up a bank account and secured a national insurance number for Ogunrinde’s use, Joanna Rodikis, prosecuting, told Manchester Crown Court.
The ruse, which dated back to 2008, began to emerge last June after the UK Borders Agency was tipped off.
They say they were able to crack the ‘serious organised criminality’ by working with Dutch police.
The identity swap had begun even before the wedding at St John’s Church, Moston.
When Sabina was unable to attend church to apply for the banns of marriage, Ogunrinde stood in for her.
A court heard there was no suggestion church officials had any idea the wedding was a scam. Months later, the real Zunica Sabina flew in for the big day.
Olusanya was working as a nursing assistant at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital at the time.
Ogunrinde had worked as a care assistant and cleaner but had continued to claim food vouchers intended for asylum seekers.
The Nigerian couple, from Newton Heath, Manchester, appeared alongside each other in the dock, along with Sabina, from Amsterdam.
Sentencing, Judge Martin Steiger QC said the conspiracy had been ‘highly sophisticated’ with ‘ingenious features’.
Olusanya was jailed for 32 months after admitting two charges of conspiracy to acts to facilitate the commission of a breach of immigration law.
Gill Crossley, defending, said he had wanted to do better for his family and legitimise his eldest daughter whose birth had been hidden from the authorities because of the couple’s immigration status.
She read a glowing reference from former employers at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.
Laura Foster, defending social worker and mum-of-one Sabina, told the court that she had been recruited for the scheme at a time when she was so cash-strapped and she felt she had no choice. She was jailed for 16 months.
Ogunrinde was spared jail after Ronan Maguire, defending, said she had ‘mixed feelings’ about the sham marriage, but had gone along with her partner, who was ‘determined’ to stay in the UK.
Judge Steiger said he could not ignore ‘humanitarian considerations’ in her case, since she had four children, ‘even if her continued reproduction’ had been in part an attempt to ‘cynically’ improve her hand with the authorities.
She must serve a 12-month suspended sentence and do 180 hours of unpaid work.
Both Sabina and Ogunrinde admitted a single count of conspiracy to acts to facilitate the commission of a breach of immigration law. Ogunrinde also admitted three charges of possessing false identity documents.
John Dilworth, head of the North West Complex Case Unit at Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘The marriage was a sham in an attempt to defeat the immigration rules that protect UK borders.
‘The Crown Prosecution Service will continue to pursue anyone involved in such offences and prosecute robustly.’
Source: Daily Mail UK