PHILADELPHIA — An indictment was unsealed in federal court Monday charging the former National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) minister of defense with lying on his application for U.S. citizenship by not disclosing his alleged affiliation with a violent political group in Liberia. The former minister was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and FBI special agents Monday at Newark Airport.
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, aka Jucontee Thomas Smith, 68, of Collingdale, was charged with seven counts of perjury, two counts of fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, four counts of fraud in immigration documents and three counts of false statements in relation to naturalization. If convicted, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 110 years in prison, a $4,000,000 fine, not more than three years supervised release and a $1,600 special assessment.
The indictment follows an investigation led by HSI Philadelphia and ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) with the assistance of the ICE Philadelphia Chief Counsel's Office, the FBI and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
According to the indictment, Woewiyu was residing in the United States when he formed the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL) to advocate against the regime of Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe in Liberia. Woewiyu helped form the NPFL, a military organization committed to the violent overthrow of the Doe government. The ACDL provided funding to the NPFL. In 1990, a splinter group captured and executed Doe. The NPFL, however, persisted with a brutal campaign for control of the country. An attack in October 1992 by NPFL forces left scores of residents of Monrovia dead. According to the indictment, Woewiyu presided as NPFL minister of defense during a brutal military campaign during which perceived adversaries were tortured, civilians were executed, girls and women were raped and forced into sex slavery, humanitarian aid workers and medical personnel were attacked and five American nuns were murdered."
In his application for U.S. citizenship, Woewiyu responded that he had not ever advocated for the overthrow of any government by force or violence and that he had never persecuted any person because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linwood C. Wright, Jr. in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
HSI is committed to rooting out alleged human rights violators who seek a safe haven in the United States. ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center investigates human rights violators who try to evade justice by seeking shelter in the United States, including those who have participated in war crimes and acts of genocide, torture, the use of child soldiers and extrajudicial killings. These individuals may conceal their past to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States.
Members of the public who have information about former human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact HSI's tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE, or to complete its online tip form. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact HSI's confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973. Tips may be provided anonymously.
Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 290 individuals for human rights-related violations under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and physically removed more than 650 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 165 active investigations and ICE is pursuing more than 1,800 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries.
Over the last four years, ICE's HRVWCC has issued more than 20,000 lookouts for people from more than 111 countries and stopped 124 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering the United States.The charges in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.