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Denver man who immigrated from Ethiopia indicted for ID theft and unlawful procurement of citizenship -- thought to be war criminal

Court documents reveal defendant was involved in war crimes in 1970s

August 31, 2012

DENVER – John Doe, a/k/a Habteab Berhe Temanu, a/k/a Habteab B Temanu, a/k/a “TUFA”, a/k/a Kefelegn Alemu, a/k/a Kefelegn Alemu Worku, age approximately 68, a Denver resident of Ethiopian descent, was arrested without incident last week by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for making false statements on immigration documents and identity theft, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and ICE HSI Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble announced. Temanu (a/k/a Worku) appeared in court yesterday, August 30, 2012, for a detention hearing as well as arraignment, but that hearing was continued until Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.

The defendant was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on August 20, 2012. He was arrested on August 24, 2012. Temanu (a/k/a Worku) made his initial appearance on August 27, 2012, where he was advised of the charges pending against him.

According to the indictment, as well as other court documents, including an affidavit in support of a search warrant of the residence of Temanu (a/k/a Worku), the defendant did knowingly possess and use and attempt to possess and use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person, Habteab Berhe Temanu, and knowing that other person to be a real person and during and in relation to the felony violation of unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization. Further, between November 22, 2009 and March 2, 2010, the defendant did knowingly procure and attempt to procure, contrary to law, and without being entitled thereto, the naturalization of any person, and documentary and other evidence of naturalization and citizenship. Specifically, the defendant Temanu (a/k/a Worku) made false statements in connection with his application for naturalization which was submitted in November 2009, and which statements the defendant re-affirmed under penalty of perjury in March 2010, including falsely identifying himself as Habteab Berhe Temanu; falsely representing that he was the father of five children; and falsely responding “No” to the question: “Have you ever persecuted (either directly or indirectly) any person because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

In May 2011, HSI received information from an informant who was a naturalized U.S. citizen, originally a native of Ethiopia, that he had recently encountered a person in Denver who he recognized as Kefelegn Alemu Worku, a prison guard during a period in the late 1970's in Ethiopia known as the “Red Terror.”

In the late 1970's in Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam assumed unofficial control of the Provisional Military Administrative Committee also known as the Dergue. The Dergue was a committee of nearly 120 military officers that established a Marxist regime and abolished Ethiopia’s Constitution and arrested the former emperor and members of the imperial government for alleged crimes against the Ethiopian people. Mengistu seized full control in 1977 which unleashed a two-year campaign known as the “Red Terror.”

During the Red Terror, tens of thousands of Ethiopian men, women and children suspected of being members or supporters of the anti-Dergue group were arrested, tortured and summarily executed. One prison that held, tortured and killed individuals was known as “Kebele 15" or “Kefetegna 15" which in English roughly translates as “Higher 15.” This prison housed approximately 1500 prisoners who had been imprisoned due to their political opinions and affiliations. During the Red Terror families of the killed or missing were often required to pay the government for the bullet used to kill the family member. Historical accounts indicate that a minimum of 10,000 people were killed in the city of Addis Ababa alone in 1977, with probably comparable numbers in the provinces in 1977 and 1978.

The witness explained that he had become a political prisoner in Ethiopia in 1978 when he was arrested and sent to the Higher 15. He witnessed Worku torture fellow prisoners and learned that other prisoners were being executed at the hands of prison guards, including Worku. The informant managed to escape the prison in September 1979. Two additional Ethiopian refugees who are now naturalized U.S. citizens also identified the defendant as Worku and recounted how Worku had personally participated in beating and torturing them at the same prison during the same time period.

HSI agents, using information obtained from the informant, determined that Worku was using the identity of Habteab B. Temanu and living in an apartment in Denver. Immigration records confirmed that Worku, using Temanu’s identity, came to the United States in July 2004 as a refugee. He lived in Denver until his indictment this month.

“The United States’ commitment to human dignity and freedom across the globe requires us to police our own borders against international criminals who use fraud and deceit to hide in our country,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “This case demonstrates our commitment as a nation to upholding the rule of law by identifying and prosecuting human rights violators.”

“Homeland Security Investigations will not allow international human rights violator fugitives to seek safe haven in the United States,” said Kumar Kibble, Special Agent in Charge of ICE HSI Denver. “In addition to investigating these fugitives, HSI also works to strip the U.S. citizenship from these individuals who fraudulently obtained it.”

If convicted of unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization the defendant faces not more than 10 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted of aggravated identity theft the defendant faces an additional 2 year mandatory consecutive sentence over and above the sentence imposed for the underlying felony, as well as up to a $250,000 fine.

This case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brenda Taylor and ICE Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Lillian Alves.

The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


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