Ultimately, jurors in a Providence marriage fraud case that ensnared an accomplished Liberian soccer player couldn’t decide whether the athlete’s marriage to a US citizen was legit or a sham.
So Prince Mark Boley, 30, avoided a conviction Wednesday in US District Court in Providence on a charge of marriage fraud to evade deportation when jurors deadlocked on that count, records show.
But Boley, of Providence, was convicted of making a false statement in a document required by immigration law and making a false statement to a federal agency. He faces up to five years in prison on each of those two counts when he’s sentenced in November, according to legal filings. Boley remains free on bond until sentencing.
The US attorney’s office in Rhode Island declined to comment on the split verdict.
Boley’s lawyer, Rhode Island state Representative Jason P. Knight, said in a phone interview that he’s glad his client “had his day in court and put the evidence to the test.”
“I’m pleased that the jury worked so hard and did their best to come up with the best result that they could,” Knight said. “We had a split verdict as a result.” He said he’ll be reviewing the case to determine if there are possible appellate options.
Prosecutors said Boley, who overstayed his visa, married Amanda Hames-Whitman, 38, formerly of Lincoln, R.I., in a 2016 civil ceremony in Family Court. The pair 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 the government’s pretrial memorandum.
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.”
The bride ultimately got cold feet, and flipped.
“She confessed that the marriage with Boley was entered solely for the purpose of obtaining him a green card,” the filing said.
According to the government, Whitman cooperated with prosecutors and wasn’t 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.”
Before he arrived in the US, Boley was an accomplished soccer player.
He was an attacking midfielder in the Liberian Premier League in 2006 and 2007 and played for his country’s national team in a World Cup qualifier against Angola in 2013, according to various soccer websites. Angola won.
In 2016, Boley played for the semi-pro Rhode Island Reds, the National Football Teams website says.
The Reds’ website says the club’s “mission is to develop and prepare men and women soccer players to be able to play at the highest levels of the US soccer pyramid and abroad.” Boley said Monday in court he’s an international soccer player, the Associated Press reported.
The lead prosecutor in the Providence case was Assistant US Attorney Zechariah Chafee, brother of former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Knight, Boley’s lawyer, is a Democrat who represents Barrington and Warren, R.I., and serves on the House Committee on Special Legislation, according to the Rhode Island Legislature’s website.
“In his first term in the House, he sponsored successful bills to facilitate economic growth in plant-based industries and agriculture, and to allow churches and religious organizations to require national criminal background checks for employees and volunteers working with children,” the site says. “He was a cosponsor of the 2018 law that banned bump stocks and modifications to make semi-automatic weapons work like fully automatic weapons.”