A Liberian man who U.S. authorities say served as general in a rebel group that sought to overthrow the West African nation’s president two decades ago was arrested and charged with immigration fraud, according to the Justice Department.
Laye Sekou Camara, 43, of Mays Landing, New Jersey, is accused of falsely denying he had affiliations with an insurgent group and other misrepresentations when he applied for a non-immigrant visa in 2011 and an immigrant visa in 2012.
Camara is accused of being a former leader of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, a group accused of recruiting child soldiers to fight in the country’s 1999 – 2003 civil wars. He used the visas to enter and remain in the United States, the department said in a press release.
“This defendant attempted to evade accountability for his horrific involvement in Liberia’s brutal civil wars by fraudulently obtaining U.S. immigration documents,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams said in the statement.
The charges were filed in the federal court in Pennsylvania’s eastern district. Camara was assigned a public defender, who could not be immediately reached for comment.
Camara, who the Justice Department alleges was once known as Dragon Master, could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy was one of several rebel groups that fought unsuccessfully to overthrow the government of Charles Taylor, who had been elected president in 1997 after years of fighting in a first civil war.
In 2003, a U.S.-backed war crimes court indicted Taylor for his alleged role in fueling a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone between 1991-2002. Taylor, under U.S. pressure, eventually stepped down and accepted Nigeria’s offer of asylum.
Liberia was founded in the early 19th century by Black people, many of them freed slaves, emigrating from the United States and the Caribbean. It was considered Africa’s first modern republic, electing its first president in 1848.
A quarter of a million people were killed in the fighting and thousands more were mutilated and raped in Liberia between 1989 and 2003.