Skip to main content

See also:

Collingdale man indicted on war crimes in Liberia

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu,
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu,

Yesterday, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Philadelphia office, charged Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, a/k/a “Jucontee Thomas Smith,” 68, of Collingdale, Pennsylvania, with lying on his application for U.S. citizenship by not disclosing his alleged affiliation with a violent political group in Liberia. According to an AP report,, “the former Liberian defense minister accused of lying about his past has been arrested on immigration charges, but his Philadelphia lawyer said he never took part in the atrocities that ravaged his country.” Woewiyu is now campaigning to return to the Liberia senate, and he was returning from Liberia when he was arrested Monday at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. He was charged with lying on his 2009 application for U.S. citizenship when he said he had never engaged in political persecution or tried to overthrow a sitting government. Woewiyu attorney’s Raymond Basso has denied all charges.

According to the unsealed indictment against Woewiyu, “Woewiyu was residing in the U.S. when he formed the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL) to advocate against the regime of Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe in Liberia. Woewiyu, and others, also formed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) a military organization committed to the violent overthrow of the Doe government. The ACDL provided funding to the NPFL. In 1990, a splinter group captured and executed Doe. The NPFL, however, persisted with a brutal campaign for control of the country. An attack in October of 1992 by NPFL forces left scores of residents of Monrovia dead.”

The indictment goes to say, “According to the indictment, Woewiyu presided as NPFL minister of defense during a brutal military campaign during which perceived adversaries were tortured, civilians were executed, girls and women were raped and forced into sex slavery, and humanitarian aid workers were murdered.”
The indictment links Woewiyu to his party's campaign to execute political opponents, force girls into sex slavery and conscript boys to become child soldiers. The investigation is being conducted by several agencies, including homeland security investigators from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and an ICE center focused on human rights violators and war crimes. ICE says it's arrested more than 290 people for human rights violations since fiscal year 2004.

"Tom had nothing to do with any of that," said Basso, who said he and his client met with immigration officials as part of the application process in 2011. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 110 years’ imprisonment, a $4 million fine, not more than three years’ supervised release, and a $1,600 special assessment.

The agency pursues people who have sought shelter in the United States after taking part in genocide, torture, the use of child soldiers and other war crimes. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Linwood C. Wright, Jr.