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April 13, 2016Philadelphia, PA, United StatesHuman Rights Violators

Pennsylvania man arrested for lying about role in first Liberian civil war

PHILADELPHIA – An indictment was unsealed Wednesday charging a Philadelphia-area man with immigration fraud and perjury. The man was arrested at his residence today following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the indictment, in December of 1998, when applying for immigration benefits,  Mohammed Jabbateh, 49, aka “Jungel Jabbah” a citizen of Liberia, lied about his activities during Liberia’s first civil war while he was a member of The United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) and later ULIMO-K, a rebel group that battled for control of Liberia. Jabbateh was allegedly a commander or higher ranking officer in ULIMO and ULIMO-K.

According to the indictment, Jabbateh, during his overall time as a ULIMO commander or higher ranking officer, either personally committed, or ordered ULIMO troops under his command to commit the following nonexclusive list of acts: 1) the murder of civilian noncombatants; 2) the sexual enslavement of women; 3) the public raping of women; 4) the maiming of civilian noncombatants; 5) the torturing of civilian noncombatants 6) the enslavement of civilian noncombatants; 7) the conscription of child soldiers; 8) the execution of prisoners of war; 9) the desecration and mutilation of corpses; and 10) the killing persons because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion.

In January of 1999, Jabbateh was interviewed by an immigration officer for purposes of determining whether his application should be granted. At that time, he denied committing any crimes in Liberia.

According to the indictment, the defendant knew that he had procured immigration benefits in the United States by fraud and willful misrepresentation of material fact.

“The United States has always welcomed refugees and those fleeing oppression, but we will not be a safe haven for alleged human rights violators and war criminals,” said Jack P. Staton, acting HSI Philadelphia special agent in charge.

“This defendant allegedly committed unspeakable crimes in his home country, brutalizing numerous innocent victims,” said U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger. “He then sought to escape to the United States where he lied about his criminal background on federal immigration forms. This office will use whatever tools are available to bring to justice serious criminals who abuse our immigration process by concealing their background and history.”

If convicted, Jabbateh faces a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison, a possible fine, a $400 special assessment, and a period of supervised release.

To support the victims in this case and others in the community that may have been victimized by Jabbateh but have not yet reported, HSI has established a Victim Assistance Hotline.  Impacted individuals are encouraged to call (215) 717-4987 to speak with a victim assistance specialist.

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 are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. These individuals may use fraudulent identities to enter the country and attempt to blend into U.S. communities.

Since fiscal year 2004, ICE has arrested more than 360 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 780 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States.

Currently, ICE has more than 125 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 97 different countries. Over the last four years, ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center has issued more than 70,100 lookouts for individuals from 111 countries and stopped 193 human rights violators or war crime suspects from entering 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 contact ICE by calling the toll-free ICE tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also email or complete ICE's online tip form.

Updated: 04/25/2016