Marco Senghor, the Senegalese-born owner of celebrated Mission community businesses Little Baobab and Bissap Baobab, was sentenced yesterday to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine for making false claims in his citizenship application. A maximum sentence would have been 10 years in prison, so the result was a major relief to the restaurateur, who can now remain in the US.
The decision concludes a federal immigration drama that began with Senghor’s arrest by federal agents in 2018. The Chronicle and Mission Local reported the sentence from the courtroom, where Senghor celebrated with supporters.
“Marco is very happy and relieved by the sentence he received today and looks forward to returning in full force to his restaurant, entertainment and community work,” a representative for the restaurateur told Eater SF.
Last year, federal agents charged Senghor with two felonies that would have revoked his citizenship and stripped his assets, claiming he illegally obtained US citizenship through a sham marriage. In a deal struck this spring, Senghor pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, making false claims in his citizenship application. Senghor claimed he lived with a woman whom he later legally married, but in fact, they hadn’t met until the ceremony, according to prosecutors, and never saw each other afterward. Eventually they divorced.
Senghor’s lawyers argued that the young immigrant was taken advantage of by “shady” individuals who persuaded him to pay for the marriage. After hearing their arguments and reading dozens of letters from Senghor’s supporters in the community, Judge William H. Orrick III delivered the light sentence.
“Given your history, I don’t think I have to order [community service],” Orrick reportedly joked, referencing the letters of support. “But I’m going to anyway just in case someone looks at this down the road.” Senghor was also sentenced to 100 hours of service.
Earlier this spring, still fearing deportation and in need of funds to pay his legal fees, Senghor sold and closed his primary Senegalese restaurant and dance hall, 20-year-old Bissap Baobab. Just a year prior, he’d finally purchased the building it occupied. But since the sale (for $2 million to the owner of Excelsior empanadas maker El Porteño Chifa Peruana), Senghor has expanded Little Baobab, making room for more of Bissap Baobab’s famous dance parties. He reopened a Bissap Baobab location in Oakland, too.
“I have always believed in the US Justice [system],” Senghor told Eater SF today. “The sentence has reinforced my belief that every one can still believe in the American dream.”
- Bissap Baobab owner Marco Senghor dodges prison sentence in immigration case [Mission Local]
- Bissap Baobab chef receives probation, no prison term, in immigration case [SF Chronicle]
- Owner of Celebrated Senegalese Spot Bissap Baobab Takes Plea Deal in Immigration Case [ESF]
- Bissap Baobab Owner Arrested, Fighting Charges He Illegally Obtained Citizenship [ESF]