Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastor In Fraud Mess

A pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – Dayspring chapel, situated in the United States, Pastor Joel Onyema Uzoma has been
indicted in a multiple fraud by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, (USCIS).
Pastor Uzoma was granted a temporary Non-Migrant Religious – Worker Visa of the chapel in October 2003 but eventually converted the church structure into a business entity and a clothing

outlet which is managed by his wife.

This violated the United States immigration laws of the section 8 C.F.R & 204.5m (8)-12 which forbids the use of a non-profitable organization and an alien under religious work to engage in business transaction.
It may interest you to know that, to obtain an Immigrant Religious-Worker Visa, the worker’s employer must file a Form I-360. 8C.F.R. & 204.5(m). An I-360 immigrant visa is a “special immigrant religious worker” visa available to ministers and other religious workers operating in either a professional or non-professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation, as defined in 8 U.S.C. & 1101(a)(27)(C).
The fraud allegation was discovered when the church tried to obtain a permanent visa for Pastor Uzoma after the expiration of the temporary
one he obtained in November 2006, classifying him as a special migrant, using his tax-exempt status, his qualification, experience, his role in the church and his financial status as the reason he should be granted the visa.
The request was conditionally denied by the United States Citizenship Immigration Service on the basis of violation of the State’s immigration law by Pastor Uzoma and the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
However, the USCIS requested for further evidence which include the church identifying itself as a non-profitable organization, its connection to the pastor, salary being paid to him, his tax return, his experience as a religious worker, his work position in the church from 2004-2006, his immigration letter, detailed description of his work and responsibility in the church and if the pastor has other support aside the church.
The responses provided by the church were found to be half-truth which necessitated the USCIS to request for another evidence; asking the church to explain the discrepancies between the salary it said it had paid the pastor and the salary he had declared on his 2004-2005 tax return and it should also explain how Pastor Uzoma was supporting himself and his family given the limited income he reported on the tax returns. It also requested for information on the Pastor’s duties, his finances, his salaries, other allowances and his authorization to perform religious duties.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God responded to the second request for evidences on May 2007. The church explained the discrepancies in the
pastor’s salary on the basis that it included a housing allowance. It stressed that there were errors in Uzoma’s reported wage for 2005;
saying that he was actually paid $22,424.00 that year rather than the $2,400 per month the church had reported.
Moreover, the church says it also paid for Pastor Uzoma’s family medical expenses and he received gifts from individual church members.
The church included additional evidence about its own and Uzoma’s finances. The Church repeated its earlier statements that Pastor Uzoma
neither had any supplementary job anywhere nor solicited any.
On July 20, 2008, the USCIS conducted a site inspection of the Dayspring Chapel. During the visit, Uzoma claimed that he was paid $2,400 per month, including a housing allowance, and said that neither
he nor his wife had any other employment.
But on October 7, 2008, the USCIS issued a Notice of Intent to deny the I-360 Petition. The USCIS stated that a public-records search revealed that both Uzoma and his wife were engaged in unauthorized employment. The USCIS stated that it had discovered that Uzoma owned a
business called Heph Technology Services and his wife owned Cute Apparel.
USCIS further revealed that both businesses had an address in the same office building as the Dayspring Chapel. USCIS told the Redeemed Christian Church of God that it needed to provide additional evidence, including pastor’s wife and two forms with the church’s quarterly wage reports, listing the pastor as a paid employee, and an itemized record from the Social Security Administration showing whether Uzoma had sought outside employment.
After much pressure from the immigration department, the Redeemed Christian Church also responded to the USCIS request on October 30, 2008, providing all of the documents requested and explaining the deficiencies the USCIS had raised after the site visit.
The Church stated again that Uzoma did not have any outside employment.
The Church explained that Uzoma had created Heph Technology Services in July 2007 for the sole purpose of buying computers to send to a
friend in Nigeria. The church explained that Uzoma needed a business name to purchase the 16 computers his friend wanted and to enable the
Nigerian bank to send the money to pay for the computers back to the United States, hence the pastor sincerely did not see it as a violation of status in any way; neither did he have any intention to violate his status; adding that Uzoma did not know that registering a business name to buy computers for a friend in Nigeria would violate his status.
The church stressed that when Uzoma realized the risk, he ceased from any of such transaction with Heph Technology Services but the USCIS objected; maintaining the claim that the pastor has another undeclared income.
The church also informed the USCIS that Uzoma’s wife was a fashion merchandising student at Houston Community College, and that she
established the clothing place primarily as a practical centre for herself in order to intensely practise what she is currently studying
at college. It also claimed that Uzoma’s wife did not intend to violate her status and did not believe that the clothing business she registered was a violation.
In the long run, the USCIS denied the I-360 Petition on February 25, 2009. The USCIS cited the Social Security record showing that the pastor received self-employment income for tax years 2004 to 2007, and denied the Petition because “without a Schedule C or other supportive documentation, USCIS cannot determine how this income was derived.
In March 2009, the church appealed the denial to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). The Church claimed that it had made no
misrepresentations and had demonstrated Uzoma’s eligibility for special immigrant religious-worker status. The Church argued that Uzoma’s involvement with Heph Technology Services was an error in the pastor judgment which occurred through the wrong advice of a member attorney.
The Church explained that sometime last year, after a Nigerian friend asked Uzoma to purchase computers and send them to Nigeria, he asked a
congregant who was an attorney for advice. The attorney advised the pastor to register a company in his name to make it authentic, which
he did. The Church stated that Uzoma did not intend to conduct a business and had withdrawn his name from the business’ registration once he learned that it might violate his immigration status.
In addition, the church explained that the self-employment income shown on Uzoma’s records were not from outside employment but instead
were from the housing allowance Uzoma received from the church.
But, in May 2013, the AAO denied the motion to reopen the case.
The AAO considered the Redeemed Christian Church’s motion as a request both to reopen and to reconsider, and declined both, finding that: the
Church had failed to provide meaningful documentary evidence showing that Uzoma came to the United States solely to work as a minister and
the testimonial evidence the Church provided to show that Uzoma did not intend to profit from the three businesses he registered did not suffice to meet the Church’s burden. The AAO also noted that the evidence the Church submitted with the motion to reopen, including the testimonial evidence from Uzoma and his wife, was previously available
and could have been provided earlier.
However, the Redeemed Christian Church of God and Joel Onyema Uzoma challenged the denial of an I-360 Petition that the church filed on Uzoma’s behalf. They also challenged the denial of their motion to reopen the case. Based on the pleadings, the motions and responses, the record, and the applicable law, the court dismissed Uzoma’s claims
for lack of standing, denied the USCIS’s motion for summary judgment, and granted the Redeemed Christian Church’s motion for summary judgment
in part.
Now, the case is remanded to the USCIS for further investigation and explanation of the evidence the Redeemed Christian Church submitted in
the agency proceedings, including in the motion to reopen, so that the USCIS may consider all the evidence submitted, including the testimonial evidence, make credibility and reliability decisions, and make the appropriate rulings on the relief sought.

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