July 03, 2018
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, 72, of Collingdale, Pa. — the man who was charged with hiding his past as a Liberian warlord — was convicted Tuesday on immigration fraud and perjury charges.
Woewiyu was found guilty of hiding his past as a top-ranking official to Charles Taylor, the former president of the Western African country, who was the leader behind heinous crimes committed against humanity in a brutal military campaign during the 1990s.
Woewiyu had been living in Delaware County for nearly 34 years under a Legal Permanent Resident status when in 2006 he applied for U.S. citizenship. During the process, he lied to immigration officials and on his immigration paperwork that he had neither advocated for the overthrow of a government by force or violence, nor that he persecuted any person because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
But as a founder and former Minister of Defense, chief spokesperson and negotiator for the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), he contributed to removing the Samuel Doe government forcibly alongside Charles Taylor. Apparently, he confirmed his high-ranking position in the NPFL publicly in the past and routinely advocated for a violent overthrow of the government.
The NPFL’s sprint to power is known for its affinity toward violent tactics like torture, rape, forced sexual slavery, conscription of child soldiers and murder.
During Woewiyu’s trial this week, multiple individuals testified about being forced to become child soldiers under Woewiyu and the NPFL. Additionally, the jury heard testimony about NPFL soldiers mutilating victims’ body parts in front of Woewiyu, while others described checkpoints with skulls and severed heads on stakes (some still dripping with blood) and intestines for ropes, as well as the ethnically based massacre of a village at the hands of the NPFL, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
He is the highest-ranking official to be found guilty of crimes that occurred in Liberia's first civil war, the Inquirer reported.
“The defendant’s tenure as Minister of Defense for the NPFL was marked by almost unimaginable violence and brutality,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He attempted to evade all accountability for his gruesome and horrific crimes by fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship. Due to the hard work and perseverance of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, he has nowhere left to hide. Finally, this defendant has been brought to justice. I hope the conviction today can provide some comfort, however belated, to all of his victims and their families.”
After just one day, the jury found Woewiyu guilty of two counts of fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, two counts of fraud in immigration documents, two counts of false statements in relation to naturalization and five counts of perjury, according to a media release.
"Today’s verdict clearly demonstrates that this nation will never be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals," said Marlon V. Miller, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia. “HSI will not allow our country to be a place where individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts can hide or evade detection.”