North Carolina

Panhandler in NC married a stranger for $12,000. Now she’s in prison and he’s deported

Melissa Anne Godshall, 32, confessed to a federal immigration official that she accepted $12,000, a house and a Lincoln Town Car to marry a man from the country of Georgia looking to skirt immigration laws, court documents show.
Melissa Anne Godshall, 32, confessed to a federal immigration official that she accepted $12,000, a house and a Lincoln Town Car to marry a man from the country of Georgia looking to skirt immigration laws, court documents show. CCBI

A couple in North Carolina was busted three years ago for running a meth lab in their quiet suburban home, according to news reports.

Turns out they had a lot more to hide.

Melissa Anne Godshall, 32, confessed to a federal immigration official that she accepted $12,000, a house and a Lincoln Town Car to marry a man from the country of Georgia looking to skirt immigration laws, court documents show.

She was sentenced to four months in prison and her pseudo husband, Levan Lomtatidze, was deported. On Tuesday, immigration officials said Godshall’s mom also pleaded guilty to lying about the sham marriage.

The harried saga dates back to 2015.

Godshall and her boyfriend, 46-year-old Robert Kennerley, were panhandling in Granville County when they were approached by Tojiddin Rahimov, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Tajikistan, according to immigration officials.

Rahimov reportedly offered Godshall $12,000, rent on a house and a car if she agreed to marry Lomtatidze.

Kennerley later told federal officials they were homeless and “in a bad spot.”

Godshall agreed and the pair were wed — with Kennerley as their witness — in May 2015, court documents show.

In June that year, officials said the trio moved into the house in Raleigh. Lomtatidze reportedly paid $1,250 for rent as part of their marriage agreement.

“Lomtatidze moved out in the middle of the night in November 2015,” the complaint against him states. “It was later learned that Lomtatidze moved to San Francisco, California.”

He and Godshall were interviewed in October that year by immigration officials and Lomtatidze was offered conditional resident status, according to the complaint.

But a few months after he moved out, police reportedly raided the house in Raleigh and discovered a meth lab.

Court documents show Godshall and Kennerley were charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, and Godshall was sentenced to roughly four years in prison.

An immigration agent visited her there later in 2016, where she provided “a full confession as to the marriage fraud conspiracy, and the payments of money and other forms of remuneration that she accepted,” according to the criminal complaint.

The agent said he also visited Kennerley in prison, who confirmed the scheme.

In addition, Kennerley said Rahimov — the handler who arranged everything — offered him $20,000 to marry a woman from Ukraine and later threatened to kill them after a “falling out.”

As part of the sham marriage, Kennerley said he also remembered Godshall’s parents visiting the three of them for Thanksgiving one year.

“(Kennerley) didn’t know if (Godshall’s) mother was aware of the sham but said the stepfather likely knew based on the looks he made,” the criminal complaint states.

Prosecutors hit the five of them with a slew of charges relating to the scheme, court documents show.

Godshall pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit marriage fraud in August and four months was added to her current sentence.

Her mother, Marlilyn Godshall, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the shame, officials said. She was sentenced to one year of probation.

Lomtatidze also pleaded guilty and was deported. Kennerely and Rahimov did the same and await sentencing.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.
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