(NEW YORK) — A piece of advice if you’re trying to get into the United States illegally: Don’t use one of the world’s largest law enforcement gatherings as your cover story.
A Nigerian man claiming to be a prison guard back home landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York over the weekend and allegedly told U.S. authorities he was headed to Philadelphia to attend the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference.
After all, as organizers put it, the conference is “the premier event for law enforcement” and an “invaluable forum for learning, collaborating and experiencing new technology” with “colleagues and peers from all over the world.”
But by the time Kolawole Fakokunde’s flight from Lagos, Nigeria, aboard Arik Airlines arrived, the IACP conference had been over for nearly two weeks.
“This guy clearly is not the sharpest tool in the shed,” said one senior Homeland Security official who attended IACP. “The last place you should be [referencing] to break the law is a conference with thousands of law enforcement officials.”
That didn’t stop Fakokunde from handing his Nigerian passport and a visitor visa to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer he encountered on Saturday, according to documents filed in federal court.
The CBP officer referred Fakokunde for further screening and questioning. During that “secondary inspection,” Fakokunde ultimately told the CBP officer that someone else “helped him complete his visa application,” in which he falsely claimed to be a prison guard traveling to the U.S. to attend IACP, court documents say.
Based on the information he provided at the time to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs in Lagos, Fakokunde was issued a valid visitor’s visa.
But he has since “admitted that he was not employed as a prison guard, that he did not intend to travel to Philadelphia to attend the IACP conference, and that his true purpose for visiting the United States was vacation,” according to the court documents.
He could be staying in the U.S. for longer than he expected. Fakokunde has now been charged in federal court with “knowingly and willfully” trying to use a U.S. visa obtained through false information. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
The U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service investigated the case with CBP, a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“It does show that the system’s working,” an IACP spokesperson told ABC News. “All the checks and balances.”
A substantial number of bona fide law enforcement personnel from Nigeria did attend IACP, officials said.
“When you walked the exhibition and the conference areas, it was not uncommon to see Nigerian officials attending for legitimate reasons,” the Homeland Security official told ABC News.
Only weeks earlier, a delegation of Nigerian police also attended the Police Innovation Conference in Cambridge, Mass.
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