Delco man indicted for fraudulent asylum bid

A Delaware County resident is accused of lying about his murderous background in his application for asylum from Liberia.

Mohammed Jabbateh, 49, a citizen of Liberia residing in East Lansdowne, was indicted on Wednesday, April 13, and charged with immigration fraud and perjury, said U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger in a press release.

According to the indictment, in December 1998, when making application for asylum and later for permanent legal residency, Jabbateh, also known as “Jungle Jabbah,” allegedly lied about his activities during Liberia’s first civil war. Prosecutors said he was a member of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) and later ULIMO-K, a rebel group that battled for control of Liberia, the release said.

The indictment said Jabbateh was a commander who ordered ULIMO troops to commit acts that included genocide; the murder, torture, enslavement and maiming of civilian noncombatants; the sexual enslavement and public raping of women; the conscription of child soldiers; the execution of prisoners of war; and the desecration and mutilation of corpses.

“This defendant allegedly committed unspeakable crimes in his home country, brutalizing numerous innocent victims,” said Memeger in the release. “He then sought to escape to the United States where he lied about his criminal background on federal immigration forms. This office will use whatever tools are available to bring to justice serious criminals who abuse our immigration process by concealing their background and history.”

In January 1999, during his successful asylum-seeking process, Jabbateh was interviewed by an immigration asylum officer to determine whether his application should be granted. To this end, it is alleged that Jabbateh falsely responded "no" to questions that included whether he had ever committed a crime or harmed anyone. Prosecutors said he repeated the lies during his application for legal permanent residency.

“The United States has always welcomed refugees and those fleeing oppression, but we will not be a safe haven for alleged human rights violators and war criminals,” Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Jack Staton of Homeland Security Investigations said in the release.

If convicted, Jabbateh faces a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison, the release said.  To support anyone who may have been victimized by Jabbateh but has not yet reported it, Homeland Security Investigations has established a Victim Assistance Hotline.  Impacted individuals are encouraged to call 215-717-4987 to speak with a victim assistance specialist, the release said.

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