PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, 72, of Collingdale, Pennsylvania, was found guilty by a federal jury today of immigration fraud and perjury charges. Woewiyu lied on his application for U.S. citizenship by denying that he advocated the overthrow of any government by force or violence and by denying that he ever persecuted any person because of membership in a social group or their political opinion.
Woewiyu is a founder and the former Minister of Defense, chief spokesperson, and negotiator for the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), which was an armed rebel group led by Charles Taylor and committed to removing the Samuel Doe government forcibly from power in Liberia in the late 1980s and 1990s. On numerous occasions over the years, Woewiyu publicly confirmed his prominent position in the NPFL and advocated the overthrow of the Doe government by force or violence.
During the defendant’s tenure, the NPFL conducted a particularly heinous and brutal military campaign, characterized by torture, rape, forced sexual slavery, conscription of child soldiers, and murder. The jury heard evidence from almost twenty Liberians who lived through Liberia’s notoriously brutal first civil war, from 1989 through 1995. At trial, multiple individuals testified about being forced to become child soldiers under Woewiyu and the NPFL. Additionally, the jury heard testimony about NPFL soldiers cutting off victims’ body parts in front of Woewiyu, while others described checkpoints with skulls and severed heads on stakes (some still dripping with blood) and intestines for ropes, as well as the ethnically based massacre of a village at the hands of the NPFL.
“The defendant’s tenure as Minister of Defense for the NPFL was marked by almost unimaginable violence and brutality,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He attempted to evade all accountability for his gruesome and horrific crimes by fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship. Due to the hard work and perseverance of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners, he has nowhere left to hide. Finally, this defendant has been brought to justice. I hope the conviction today can provide some comfort, however belated, to all of his victims and their families.”
Since approximately January 13, 1972, Woewiyu has had Legal Permanent Resident status in the United States. On January 23, 2006, Woewiyu applied for U.S. citizenship by submitting a Form N-400. On that form, and in his immigration in-person interview, Woewiyu swore and certified under the penalty of perjury that, among other things, he had never advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or violence, and that he had never persecuted (either directly or indirectly) any person because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
After a three week trial, the jury began its deliberations on Monday, July 2. The jury returned a verdict today, finding the defendant guilty of two counts of fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, two counts of fraud in immigration documents, two counts of false statements in relation to naturalization, and five counts of perjury.
"Today’s verdict clearly demonstrates that this nation will never be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals," said Marlon V. Miller, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Philadelphia. “HSI will not allow our country to be a place where individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts can hide or evade detection.”
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Linwood C. Wright, Jr. and Nelson S. T. Thayer, Jr.