PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging Moses Slanger Wright, 69, of Philadelphia, PA, with fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, fraud in immigration documents, false statements in relation to naturalization, and perjury in connection with his fraudulent attempt to obtain U.S. citizenship.
During Liberia’s First Civil War, the Armed Forces of Liberia was locked in a brutal 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 following list of acts: 1) persecution of civilian noncombatant Gio and Mano tribesmen; 2) murder of civilian noncombatants; 3) assault of civilian noncombatants; 4) false arrest of civilian noncombatants; and 5) false imprisonment of civilian noncombatants.
In May 2013, Wright, who had been granted asylum in the U.S. in 2000 and lawful permanent residency in 2008, applied for U.S. citizenship. In applying for both asylum and lawful permanent residency, the defendant lied about his conduct during Liberia’s First Civil War. During his August 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, the defendant falsely answered similar queries posed by the examining 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 United States Attorney Romero.
“HSI is committed to upholding the law, both within the United States and abroad. Moses Wright, the former commanding general for the Armed Forces of Liberia, is alleged to have misrepresented his participation in the First Liberian Civil War when he came to the United States, hiding his leadership of forces that committed -- with his participation and under his command -- persecutory atrocities against innocent civilians,” said William S. Walker, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations, Philadelphia. “HSI continues steadfastly in our commitment to ensure the United States will never be a safe haven for those who seek to flee from atrocities they commit abroad.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 165 years in prison and a $7,000,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia Field Office with assistance from HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in Washington D.C., the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the United States Embassy in Liberia, and 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.