SANTA ANA, California – An immigration services officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was arrested this morning in Maryland on a federal charge that alleges he obtained U.S. citizenship under a false name.
The defendant is charged under the false name of “Karl Nwabugwu Odike Ifemembi,” but the criminal complaint in this case notes that his real name is Modestus Nwagubwu Ifemembi, originally of Nigeria. Ifemembi, 48, who previously resided in Aliso Viejo, but relocated to Rockville, Maryland, last year, has worked for USCIS for seven years. Ifemembi is charged in the complaint with one count of unlawfully procuring U.S. citizenship.
Ifemembi made false statements on various government forms to obtain U.S. citizenship, as well as employment with USCIS, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint, which was unsealed this morning.
Ifemembi first entered the United States in 2000 when he flew from France to Chicago with a British passport that had been issued to another person but had been altered to display Ifemembi’s photograph, according to the affidavit. While immigration officials in Chicago caught Ifemembi – who admitted his fraudulent use of the U.K. passport, the affidavit states – he ultimately was granted asylum after falsely claiming his real name was “Karlos Mourfy” and that he was a native of Sierra Leone.
After being granted asylum, Ifemembi attended the University of California, Berkeley, which granted him a bachelor’s degree in 2004, and then obtained J.D. from the University of Oregon, School of Law. Then, in late 2010, “Karlos Mourfy” applied for U.S. citizenship and asked to change his name to Ifemembi – requests that were granted in May 2011. Two years later, in 2013, Ifemembi was hired by USCIS, according to the affidavit.
During the investigation into Ifemembi, federal investigators traveled to Africa – including his hometown of Akuma, Nigeria – and searched his Orange County residence in 2019, obtaining evidence about his true identity, including baptism, school and financial records, the affidavit states.
Ifemembi is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The charge of unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, and upon conviction, U.S. citizenship is automatically revoked.
The investigation into Ifemembi is being conducted by the United States Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – Office of Investigations, and the United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Charles E. Pell of the Santa Ana Branch Office.