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Rwandan man sentenced in Iowa to 15 years in federal prison for US naturalization fraud

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A man from Rwanda, who actively participated in the Rwandan genocide and then committed U.S. naturalization fraud, was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison. 

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau, Northern District of Iowa. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

In January 2016, Gervais, aka "Ken," Ngombwa was convicted of one count of unlawfully procuring, or attempting to procure, naturalization or U.S. citizenship; one count of procuring U.S. citizenship to which he was not entitled; one count of conspiracy to unlawfully procure U.S. citizenship; and one count of making a materially false statement to agents of the Department of Homeland Security. Evidence presented at trial showed Ngombwa knowingly made several material false statements to procure entry into the United States from Rwanda in 1998.  Notably, Ngombwa falsely claimed to be the brother of Faustin Twagiramungu, a former Prime Minister of Rwanda, who lives in exile in Belgium. 

During sentencing proceedings, the government presented the testimony of multiple witnesses, including HSI special agents.  Much of the testimony related to Ngombwa's conduct in Rwanda in the 1990s.  Testimony was presented about the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which hundreds of thousands of people from the Tutsi ethnic group were killed.  Evidence showed that Ngombwa was charged and convicted in two gacaca courts in that country for his involvement in the Rwandan genocide. He was also named in a 2010 indictment against Jean Uwinkindi by the United Nations Joint Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as a co-participant in a "joint criminal enterprise whose common purpose was the commission of genocide against the Tutsi racial or ethnic group and persons identified as Tutsi or presumed to support the Tutsi."  Uwinkindi was convicted from the indictment and sentenced to life in prison in December 2015. 

Evidence presented at sentencing also showed that Ngombwa is currently under indictment in the Republic of Rwanda. An international arrest warrant is outstanding on this indictment.  The Rwandan indictment charges Ngombwa in Count 1 with "genocide" and alleges, in part, that Ngombwa "is individually liable for having, between April 7, 1994 and July 1994, ordered and committed crimes perpetrated with the intent to destroy in whole the Tutsi ethnic group."The indictment alleges Ngombwa drove members of the Interahamwe to the Catholic Church "in order to attack and kill Tutsi who had sought refuge there." 

Further, the indictment alleges that Ngombwa transported members of the Interahamwe to the Kanzene communal office to kill Tutsi seeking refuge there. It also charged Ngombwa and the Interahamwe militia, armed with guns and traditional weapons, "such as machetes, spears, clubs and other traditional tools, attacked the Tutsi who had sought refuge in the premises of priests" at the Catholic Church, and attacked and killed them. There are additional allegations in Count 1.  Moreover, Count 2 charges Ngombwa with "extermination as a crime against humanity." Count 3 charges Ngombwa with "murder as a crime against humanity." 

HSI special agents also testified that as part of their investigation, they personally interviewed multiple witnesses in Rwanda who allegedly saw Ngombwa commit acts of violence during the Rwandan genocide. For instance, many witnesses stated that Ngombwa drove members of the Interahamwe youth milita and the military to locations where they conducted mass killings of Tutsi. According to the witnesses, Ngombwa made derogatory statements concerning the Tutsi; he encouraged others to kill Tutsi; and he personally participated in the killings. According to witnesses, Ngombwa also participated in stealing or looting Tutsi property.

In addition, law enforcement agents testified about Ngombwa's alleged involvement in a July 2013 fire at his Cedar Rapids home. Ngombwa is currently charged with arson and insurance fraud in the Iowa District Court for Linn County.

After hearing this evidence, U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Reade found that Ngombwa "actively participated in the genocide," made multiple false statements while being resettled in the United States, committed perjury and obstructed justice and intentionally set fire to his home in 2013.

Following the sentencing decision, U.S. Attorney Kevin W. Techau, Northern District of Iowa, said:  "This prosecution shows human rights violators will not find safe haven in the United States.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners worldwide to identify, prosecute, and repatriate those who, by fraud, have evaded the administration of justice in their homeland."

"Human rights violators who flee from the atrocities committed in their home countries will not find refuge here," said Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu, HSI St. Paul, Minnesota. "HSI is especially proud of the international cooperation between governments and law enforcement agencies this case exemplifies. We will continue to track down those who persecute others and remove them from the United States."

Ngombwa was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison and three years' supervised release, and revocation of his U.S. citizenship.  After announcing her sentencing decision, Ngombwa was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, awaiting placement at a Bureau of Prisons facility to serve his sentence. Ngombwa will be processed for removal from the United States to Rwanda while he serves his prison term. 

The enforcement effort targeting Ngombwa was supported by HSI Pretoria and ICE's Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Established in 2009 to further ICE's efforts to identify, track and prosecute human rights abusers, the HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency's broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.

Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 380 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 785 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States.  Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 108 such individuals from the United States.

Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,750 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 70,400 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped 213 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 ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous. 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.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard L. Murphy and Ravi T. Narayan, Northern District of Iowa.

Court file information is available at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.  The case file number is 14-CR-00123.


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Last Reviewed/Updated: 03/03/2017