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Human Rights Violators
10/11/2012

Rwandan national sentenced to 21 months for immigration fraud

Provided false information regarding her activities and associations during the 1994 Rwandan genocide

BOSTON — A Rwandan woman was sentenced to 21 months in prison Thursday for immigration fraud and other charges. The sentencing follows a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of State.

Prudence Kantengwa, aka Prudentienne, 47, of Boston, was sentenced Oct. 11 to nearly two years in prison for immigration fraud, perjury in immigration court and obstruction of justice. She was previously convicted in May 2012 of lying to enter the U.S. and again when seeking asylum status.

The case arose out of the 1994 conflict in Rwanda in which tensions between rival Tutsi and Hutu peoples burst into genocide in which as many as 900,000 Rwandans, most of Tutsi origin, perished. The charges against Kantengwa stemmed from lies she told about her membership in the Hutu-dominated party in Rwanda, her husband's role as the director of Rwanda's internal security service, and her knowledge of the existence of a genocidal roadblock. The roadblock was erected in front of the residence where she spent half the period of the genocide in the company of individuals subsequently convicted of genocide in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Kantengwa was convicted of using a visa she fraudulently obtained to enter the United States. She obtained that visa by providing false information about her background on a questionnaire designed by the State Department to identify individuals involved in or associated with the genocidal government in Rwanda. Kantengwa was also convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with her testimony in immigration court in order to remain in the United States.

"No amount of prison time can adequately punish a person who had any role in the atrocities committed during the Rwandan genocide, but the surviving families can take solace in the fact that those responsible for this tragedy will be held accountable," said Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart of HSI Boston. "The United States will never be a place where individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts can hide."

"This case should send a strong message to all those who would seek to cheat the immigration system by lying about their background or otherwise deceiving U.S. immigration authorities," said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. "The United States will not be a safe haven for those who lie or conceal their past in order to gain the privilege of living in this country."

"The Diplomatic Security Service is committed to making sure that those who commit visa and passport fraud face consequences for their criminal actions," said Special Agent in Charge Todd Ziccarelli of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service's Boston office. "Diplomatic Security's strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other law enforcement agencies around the world continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice."

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 and extrajudicial killings. These individuals may use fraudulent identities to enter the country and attempt to blend into communities in the United States. Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the toll-free HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE'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 225 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 540 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Currently, HSI has more than 140 active investigations and ICE is pursuing more than 1,900 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from nearly 95 different countries.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz, SAC Foucart and SAC Ziccarelli made the announcement today.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aloke S. Chakravarty, John Capin and Jeffrey Auerhahn of Ortiz's Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit.