Usually, a flirtatious text between intimate partners doesn’t spark a federal investigation.
But a missive about “the best sex ever” helped set up a marriage fraud trial currently playing out in US District Court in Providence, records show.
The key question for jurors: did Prince Mark Boley, a Liberian national and Providence resident currently charged with fraud-related counts, find true love when he tied the knot with Amanda Hames-Whitman, formerly of Lincoln, R.I., in a 2016 civil ceremony in Family Court?
Or did he, as prosecutors allege, enter into a sham marriage with her in an effort to get a green card after overstaying his visa?
Court records in the case, which went to trial Monday, show that a text Hames-Whitman received from someone else contributed to Boley’s current legal jeopardy.
Boley and Hames-Whitman visited the US Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Johnston, R.I., on June 8, 2017, so Boley could apply for permanent resident status based on the marriage, according to a pretrial memorandum from prosecutors.
The two were interviewed separately, according to standard protocol, and at one point during her session, Hames-Whitman pulled out her cellphone to show an official texts from Boley.
But then “Chriss” muddied the waters.
“During the interview Whitman was showing the officer some texts from Boley on her cell phone when a new text came in from ‘Chriss’ reading, ‘We had the best sex ever,’ ” the filing said. “Whitman admitted having sex with Chriss about a month before the interview. Both Boley and Whitman were nervous and evasive and presented little documentation of a genuine marriage. The matter was referred to the USCIS fraud detection unit for further inquiry.”
Chriss’s surname wasn’t disclosed in legal filings, and the steamy text wasn’t the only indicator that something was amiss.
Hames-Whitman told the interviewing officer that she had recently moved to Burrillville, R.I., and that Boley also was living at the new address. But Boley said in his interview that he still resided at the Lincoln address, according to prosecutors.
“There were other indicators of fraud,” the filing said. “Whitman said Boley had slept at his sister’s home the previous night; Boley said he had slept at Whitman’s place.”
So the probe continued.
“The Fraud officers visited Whitman at the [Burrillville] apartment ... that she claimed to share with Boley,” the memorandum said. “His name was not on the mailbox, and Whitman acknowledged that his name was not on the lease either. The only men’s clothing in the apartment was a pair of dress pants and two shirts. Whitman said Boley kept his work clothes in his car as well as his passport and other immigration papers. There were no men’s toiletries present. Whitman admitted that Boley had been living with his sister in Providence.”
And she ultimately flipped.
“She confessed that the marriage with Boley was entered solely for the purpose of obtaining him a green card,” the filing said. “She said that they had never lived together and had never had a physical relationship. She said that Boley had put the few articles of clothing in her apartment to give evidence of residency and had put the insurance for her car and the utility bills for her apartment in his name to give a paper record of residency there. She also gave a short handwritten statement that the marriage was never real.”
According to the government, Whitman is cooperating with prosecutors and won’t be charged for her role in the alleged fraud. She also claimed she didn’t receive any money from Boley, who was introduced to her by Boley’s niece, according to prosecutors.
“Whitman agreed to marry Boley for that purpose because she found him to be a ‘nice guy’ who had been kind to her and her daughter,” the filing said. “She did not think it would do any harm.”
The trial got underway Monday with opening statements from Assistant US Attorney Zechariah Chafee, brother of former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Boley’s attorney Jason P. Knight, records show. The case continues Tuesday.
Knight declined to comment, since the matter is pending.
His client is charged with marriage fraud, presentation of a perjured document, and false statements and faces a maximum prison term on each count of five years if convicted, according to legal filings.