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A 69-year-old Philly man was a notorious Liberian general who lied about his past, prosecutors say

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

A 69-year-old Philadelphia man has been charged with immigration fraud for allegedly lying about his background as a military general in Liberia accused of committing atrocities during a civil war there, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Moses Slanger Wright was charged with fraudulently attempting to obtain U.S. citizenship, fraud in immigration documents, false statements in relation to naturalization, and perjury in connection with fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors said that Wright in 2000 was granted asylum in the United States and in 2008 obtained lawful permanent residency. Wright applied for U.S. citizenship in 2013, prosecutors said.

Wright is the latest of several Philadelphia-area Liberian immigrants to face federal charges in recent years. U.S. authorities have sought to bring Liberian war criminals to justice — especially in Philadelphia, where thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict were relocated in the 1990s and 2000s.

The indictment alleges that Wright lied about his activities during the First Liberian Civil War, which occurred in the 1990s, as a member of — and then later as the commanding general of — the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Wright is accused of having personally committed or ordering troops under his command to commit numerous atrocities, including the murder of civilian noncombatants.

In 2016, Wright lied about his background and actions in Liberia during an in-person citizenship interview, prosecutors said.

“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,” Romero said in a statement.

In a similar case earlier this year, another Liberian immigrant living in Philadelphia was arrested by federal authorities and charged with fraudulently hiding his background as a high-ranking member of a rebel group — he called himself “Dragon Master” — that is accused of committing atrocities during the Second Liberian Civil War.

In 2018, a federal judge sentenced Mohammed Jabateh, 54, of Lansdowne, to 30 years in prison for hiding his past as a brutal warlord.

That same year, a jury convicted Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu — a past spokesperson for Charles Taylor, a Liberian president later found guilty by an international war-crimes tribunal — for lying to U.S. immigration authorities about his complicity in war crimes committed by Taylor’s regime. He died in 2020 before he could be sentenced.


(c) 2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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