A lawyer and recipient of a prestigious Paul & Daisy Soros fellowship for immigrants has reportedly fled the U.S., possibly to Africa, as his wife faces criminal welfare fraud charges in Arlington, Va.
Fidelis Agbapuruonwu, a Nigerian immigrant, “fled the country and is somewhere in Africa,” according to officials at the Arlington General Court, NBC News 4 reports.
Agbapuruonwu’s wife Helen was arraigned March 8 and charged with felony welfare fraud after she allegedly “fraudulently obtained public assistance in excess of $100,000 under false pretenses” for about six years between 2010 and 2016, according to a police report. The defense attorney for Mrs. Agbapuruonwu declined to comment when contacted by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
According to Fidelis Agbapuruonwu’s LinkedIn page, he worked most recently as an associate at the Washington, D.C., offices of Mayer Brown LLP, a top-tier, international law firm, NBC 4 reports. While there, he earned $1.5 million a year — a high salary for an associate-level attorney.
Agbapuruonwu worked for the firm for about five years and left in 2011, explained an attorney at Mayer Brown, who spoke with The Daily Caller News Foundation on a condition of anonymity. Associates at the firm do not make $1.5 million in salary, the attorney added.
Agbapuruonwu immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria in the 1990s, and later received a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans in 2001 and 2002, which he used to pay for law school at Ohio State University.
The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans offers up to $90,000 for two years of graduate education. Paul Soros, older brother to Democratic mega-donor George Soros, created the fellowship program in 1998 to honor “the contributions of immigrants and children of immigrants to the United States,” and help fund graduate study for immigrants “who are poised to make significant contributions to US society, culture or their academic field.”
The Paul & Daisy Soros Foundation did not return TheDCNF’s request for comment.
As a lawyer at Mayer Brown, Agbapuruonwu worked on a number financial and civil cases, according to a search of federal court records.
In one of his cases, Agbapuruonwu assisted a pro bono team in 2011, which helped a woman from El Salvador win asylum in the U.S. from the “continuous and severe physical, emotional, and psychological abuse inflicted by her ex-boyfriend.”
Helen Agbapuruonwu’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for early April. Police allege that Helen forged documents to illegally obtain public benefits like food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and Medicaid for herself and four children.
“We hope it sends a message that if you are taking public assistance it’s truly intended for those in need, and we’re committed to ensuring those who need the most help receive it,” Ashley Savage, spokeswoman for the Arlington County Police, told NBC News.
The director of a pre-school where Agbapuruonwu’s attended said the allegations do not make sense. “I have to believe it’s not true,” the director told NBC4 News.