Former Armed Forces of Liberia commanding general charged with immigration fraud, perjury following HSI Philadelphia investigation
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero today announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Moses Slanger Wright, 69, of Philadelphia, with fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, fraud in immigration documents, false statements in relation to naturalization, and perjury following an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia.
During Liberia’s First Civil War, the Armed Forces of Liberia was locked in a campaign for control of the country with various rebel groups, most notably Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia. The indictment alleges that the defendant, when applying for U.S. citizenship, was not truthful about his activities during Liberia’s First Civil War while he was a member, and ultimately the commanding general of, the Armed Forces of Liberia. According to the indictment, Wright either personally committed, or ordered Armed Forces of Liberia troops under his command to commit numerous atrocities, including but not limited to, the persecution, murder, and assault of civilian noncombatant Gio and Mano tribesmen, as well as the false arrest and false imprisonment of civilian noncombatants.
On or about May 23, 2013, Wright, who had been granted lawful permanent residency in the U.S. in 2008, applied for U.S. citizenship. In applying for immigration benefits, Wright lied about his conduct during Liberia’s First Civil War. During his Aug. 17, 2016, in-person citizenship (naturalization) interview, Wright falsely swore and falsely certified under penalty of perjury that “[his citizenship] application, and the evidence submitted with it, [were] all true and correct.” His application included his false denials that he had: 1) “ever persecuted (either directly or indirectly) any person because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion;” 2) “ever committed a crime or offense for which [he was] not arrested;” and 3) “ever given false or misleading information to any U.S. Government official while applying for any immigration benefit or to prevent deportation, exclusion, or removal.” Additionally, while under oath, Wright falsely answered similar queries posed by the examining U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer.
“Wright sought to escape to the United States and start anew, where he lied about his appalling wartime conduct on federal immigration forms and to the faces of U.S. officials. The United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” said U.S. Attorney Romero.
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 165 years imprisonment and a $7,000,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the HSI Philadelphia Field Office with assistance from HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) in Washington D.C., the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the United States Embassy in Liberia. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Linwood C. Wright, Jr. and First Assistant United States Attorney Nelson S.T. Thayer, Jr.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The HRVWCC is the only U.S. government entity focused completely on investigating global atrocities and the perpetrators of human rights violations and war crimes. Initiated by HSI in 2008, the HRVWCC leverages the knowledge and expertise of a select group of special agents, attorneys, intelligence analysts, criminal research specialists and historians who are charged with preventing the U.S. from becoming a haven for individuals who engage in the commission of war crimes, genocide, torture, and other forms of serious human rights abuses from conflicts around the globe.
Currently, HSI has more than 180 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,700 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 78,000 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped over 350 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.
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 HSI tip line at: 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous.