Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Southern District of Texas
HIGGINBOTHAM, SMITH, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
E. SMITH, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Alabi, Justice Daniel, and Letrishia Andrews were convicted
of crimes related to their involvement in a marriage-fraud
conspiracy. They appeal, raising issues regarding their
convictions and sentences. We affirm.
recruited U.S. citizens to marry Nigerian nationals so that
the Nigerians could obtain legal immigration status. U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services ("CIS")
uncovered the conspiracy and, together with the Department of
Homeland Security ("DHS"), investigated.
Officers Anna Lam and Marva Hebert reviewed the files for
Daniel and others and determined that their marriages to U.S.
citizens were fraudulent. The investigation included
examination of immigration petitions, applications,
documentation, pictures, when and with whom the alien entered
the United States, when the couple got married, when they
applied for immigration benefits, their ages, whether they
were living together, and whether the couple had children
together or with someone else during the marriage. DHS Agent
Ramon Oyegbola conducted a second investigation and agreed
that the marriages were fraudulent, forming that judgment
after surveilling the suspected individuals' residences,
examining documents, and interviewing the suspects and other
was charged with two counts of aiding and abetting marriage
fraud in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1325(c) and 18 U.S.C.
§ 2. The count that proceeded to trial charged that
Alabi had aided and abetted the marriage of Daniel for the
purpose of evading U.S. immigration law. Daniel was charged
with one count of marriage fraud in violation of 8 U.S.C.
§ 1325(c). Andrews was charged with one count of aiding
and abetting marriage fraud in violation of 8 U.S.C. §
1325(c) and 18 U.S.C. § 2, one count of theft of
government money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641, and
two counts of making false statements related to Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in violation of 8
U.S.C. § 1001(a)(3). All three defendants were also
charged with conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in violation
of 8 U.S.C. § 1325(c) and 18 U.S.C. § 371.
joint trial, the jury convicted on all counts. The district
court sentenced Alabi to 18 months' imprisonment and one
year of supervised release ("SR"); and Andrews to
24 months' imprisonment, three years of SR, $5629 in
restitution, and a $500 special assessment, and imposed,
among others, a special condition of SR requiring her
"not knowingly [to] purchase, possess, distribute,
administer, or otherwise use any psychoactive substances,
including synthetic marijuana or bath salts, that impair a
person's physical or mental functioning, whether or not
intended for human consumption, except as with the prior
approval of the probation officer."
(1) challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the
verdict that he conspired to commit marriage fraud and aided
and abetted marriage fraud and (2) contends that the district
court erred in denying his proposed jury instruction
"that would [have] require[d] the jury to find that [he]
intended to evade the immigration law at the time the
marriage was entered." Daniel avers that the court erred
in refusing to sever his case from Andrews's. Andrews
maintains that the court erred in imposing the
psychoactive-substances special condition.
asserts that "[t]he evidence was insufficient to prove
that [he] knowingly entered the conspiracy to commit
immigration fraud or to aid and abet immigration fraud."
He maintains that neither the testimony of Anisha Gable,
another co-conspirator, nor the immigration agents'
testimony, including the evidence of red flags indicative of
marriage fraud that were present in Daniel's marriage,
supported that Alabi intended to join the conspiracy or knew
of Daniel's and Andrews's intent to evade the
immigration laws by marrying. Alabi attacks Gable's
testimony as uncorroborated and circumstantial and therefore
insufficient to support the inference that he had the
requisite knowledge and intent to join the conspiracy. He
also rehashes impeaching evidence against Gable.
repeatedly mentions his view that absent evidence he received
money to introduce a U.S. citizen to a Nigerian for marriage
purposes, the requisite intent is not shown. Alabi further
maintains that "[t]he indicators of fraud discovered by
investigators . . . were false statement and altered
documents that were submitted after the marriage," but
"there was no evidence that [he] had any involvement or
knowledge" of those documents when the marriage was
entered into. He urges that "there was no evidence that
[he] was involved with submitting documents connected to any
of the marriages in this case or that [he] instructed or
directed others about how to submit these documents that were
determined to be indicative of fraud." Consequently,
"[t]he evidence was . . . insufficient to support an
inference that Alabi knew about the conspiracy and
intentionally joined the conspiracy."
his conviction for aiding and abetting marriage fraud, Alabi
contends that the evidence was insufficient "because
there was no evidence that he actively participated in
Daniel's marriage for the purpose of evading the
immigration laws." He denies that the evidence
demonstrated "that he shared Daniel['s] intent to
violate the immigration laws."
review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence de
novo" but are "nevertheless highly deferential to
the verdict." United States v. Chapman, 851
F.3d 363, 376 (5th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). "[W]e consider all evidence presented
and all inferences reasonably drawn therefrom in the light
most favorable to the verdict and determine whether any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt."
United States v. Vinagre-Hernandez, 925 F.3d 761,
764 (5th Cir. 2019) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). "[A] defendant seeking reversal on the basis
of insufficient evidence swims upstream." United
States v. Mulderig, 120 F.3d 534, 546 (5th Cir. 1997).
prove a conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371, the government
ha[s] to prove (1) an agreement between two or more persons
to pursue an unlawful objective; (2) the defendant's
knowledge of the unlawful objective and voluntary agreement
to join the conspiracy; and (3) an overt act by one or more
of the members of the conspiracy in furtherance of the
objective of the conspiracy." United States v.
Ongaga, 820 F.3d 152, 157 (5th Cir. 2016) (citation
omitted). "An agreement may be inferred from concert of
action, voluntary participation may be inferred from a
collocation of circumstances, and knowledge may be inferred
from surrounding circumstances." United States v.
Bieganowski, 313 F.3d 264, 277 (5th Cir. 2002) (cleaned
up and citation omitted).
U.S.C. § 1325(c) states that "[a]ny individual who
knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading
any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for
not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250, 000, or
both." To prove marriage fraud, the government must show
"only that the defendant (1) knowingly entered into a
marriage (2) for the purpose of evading any provision of the
immigration laws." Ongaga, 820 F.3d at 160.
federal aiding and abetting statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2,
states that a person who . . . aids, abets, counsels,
commands, induces or procures . . . the commission of a
federal offense is punishable as a principal."
Rosemond v. United States, 572 U.S. 65, 70 (2014)
(internal quotation marks omitted). "[A] person is
liable under § 2 for aiding and abetting a crime if (and
only if) he (1) takes an affirmative act in furtherance of
that offense, (2) with the intent of facilitating the
offense's commission." Id. at 71. The
statute "comprehends all assistance rendered by words,
acts, encouragement, support, or presence, . . . ...