Woewiyu faces a US$4 million fine and 110 years of imprisonment if he is found guilty.
Woewiyu also known as “Jucontee Thomas Smith” was arraigned on a 22-court charge of indictment, providing false information on his form number 400 Application for Naturalization and his involvement in the civil war in Liberia.
He was also the former spokesperson of the NPFL and Defense Minister in President Charles G. Taylor-led National Patriotic Reconstruction and Assembly Government (NPRAG) in what was then ‘Greater Liberia.’
According to the indictment, Tom Woewiyu allegedly provided support to the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) a rebel group that executed civilians, killed peacekeepers of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) as well as forced sexual slavery and raped of girls and women, according to the indictment.
He was further accused of conscription of child soldiers and murdered of humanitarian aid workers.
The Grand jury in their indictment stated that on January 30, 2009, in the US Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere the defendants Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, in his declaration certificate verification a statement, question 18 on his form was false in that he knew at the time he made the statement, he did not disclose his 1970 New York State conviction for falsification of business record, in violation of title 18 of the US code section 16.21 2.
It further alleged that he did not disclose that while he was a member of the NPFL, he persecuted others because of their political opinion and membership particularly, member of the Krahn and Mandingo tribes in violation of Title 18 of the US Code section 16.21.2.
“While he was under oath before a competent tribunal, the defendant falsely stated, while responding to question 11 on the form he did not disclose that he was member of other organizations, including the NPFL that prosecuted political opinions and members in the particular social group,” the document said.
It also said, “in response to question 8A and sub B on his form, Defendant Woewiyu knew that he did not disclose his membership and association with all organizations other then the Union of Liberia Association in the US, including but not limited to the NPFL and the NPFL-CRC.”
Woewiyu earned a bachelor’s degree in labor studies from Rutgers University in 1981 and is pursuing a Master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. He has made his living through real estate investment.
He first applied for citizenship in 2006, submitting a form that prosecutors now say contained many misrepresentations.
Asked whether he had ever advocated the overthrow of another government, Woewiyu said no during his application. He also allegedly failed to mention his association with Taylor when asked whether he had ever engaged in political persecution, according to the indictment.
But Raymond Basso, Woewiyu’s Philadelphia-based immigration lawyer, on Tuesday questioned why prosecutors had waited eight years to bring a criminal case against his client.
Homeland Security agents interviewed Woewiyu in 2010 for nearly four hours about an unrelated case, the lawyer said. He described that meeting as “cordial.”
And though Woewiyu’s citizenship application had been denied in 2009, federal authorities did not indict him until January or arrest him until Monday.
Basso said Tuesday that his client took no part in the more brutal aspects of Taylor’s campaign.
“Tom had nothing to do with any of that,” Basso said. “Immigration and the U.S. government were fully aware of that.”
Woewiyu has maintained legal residency in the United States since 1972, while shuttling back and forth between here and Liberia — at times even serving as its Labor Minister and President Pro Tempore.
Woewiyu was returning from a recent trip to Liberia, where he has declared his intention to contest in the up-coming senatorial race for Grand Bassa County, when U.S. Homeland Security agents detained him Monday at Newark Liberty International Airport.