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Press Release

U.S. Citizen With Diplomatic Status Facing Federal Charges For Alleged Sexual Abuse Of Two Minors In Burkina Faso

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland

Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging Fode Sitafa Mara, age 39, with five counts of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor, one count of Coercion and Enticement and one count of Obstruction of Justice. The charges allege the sexual abuse of two minor victims, alleged to have occurred within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in Burkina Faso, West Africa. The indictment was returned on June 6, 2024, and the initial appearance was held on June 10, 2024, in Greenbelt before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan.

The indictment was announced by Erek L. Barron, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland and Deputy Assistant Director William Ferrari of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (“DSS”).

The seven-count indictment alleges that Mara, who holds a diplomatic status and was employed at the U.S. Embassy-Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, befriended a family that included two minor children. Over the course of that relationship, it is alleged that Mara groomed, coerced and sexually abused the two minor victims, who were 13 and 15 years old at the time of the abuse. These allegations of sexual abuse and rape are believed to have occurred at Mara’s embassy assigned residence, over the course of approximately one year.

If convicted, Mara faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 30 years’ incarceration and a maximum of life in federal prison for the charges of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Minor. A federal district court judge will determine any applicable sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit For more information about Internet safety education, please visit and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.

U.S. Attorney Barron commended the Diplomatic Security Service’s Office of Special Investigations, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations, for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ranganath Manthripragada and Trial Attorney Adam Braskich of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, who are prosecuting the federal case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit and


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Updated June 14, 2024

Project Safe Childhood