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Sentencing starts in immigration fraud case

Rwandan in Cedar Rapids was convicted in January

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Sentencing begins today in U.S. District Court for a Rwandan convicted of making false statements to authorities to gain access into the United States and obtain citizenship.

A jury convicted Gervais “Ken” Ngombwa in January of unlawfully procuring or attempting to procure naturalization or citizenship, procuring citizenship to which he was not entitle, conspiracy to unlawfully procure citizenship, and lying to agents of the Department of Homeland Security.

Ngombwa, 56, faces up to 30 years in federal prison. In May, a judge revoked his U.S. citizenship and canceled his naturalization certificate obtained in November 2004.

Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1285 Third Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids — where Ngombwa and his family are members — is holding a prayer service for the family at 7 p.m. today. Ngombwa, his wife and some of their children have lived in Cedar Rapids since the late 1990s.

“The family requested the prayer service in support and to help them get through the night,” the Rev. Randi Henderson said Wednesday.

The sentencing hearing, starting at 9 a.m., is expected to go into Friday. The prosecution and defense both will present expert testimony regarding sentencing, court documents show. Prosecutors plan to argue for more prison time than what a presentencing report recommends, based on Ngombwa’s participation in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, according to sentencing documents. Prosecutors plan to present evidence to show Ngombwa took steps to conceal his conduct and avoid accountability, according to documents.

In the January trial, evidence showed Ngombwa lied to authorities about family relationships in an attempt to get his application approved for relocation following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and later to obtain citizenship.

He misled authorities about the identity of his brother, according to court dosuments, saying he was a prime minister who ended up in exile, a relationship that would make it difficult for him to go back to Rwanda and help ensure him refugee status in the U.S. The former prime minister, however, wasn’t his brother.

Testimony also identified Ngombwa as a Hutu and a leader with MDR-Power, the group that aligned with Hutu extremists in the war. He had been convicted in the community courts of Rwanda for participating in transporting militia members involved with the genocide of nearly 1 million Rwandans.

The defense plans to argue that Ngombwa’s crimes were committed before the enhancement revision was made in the sentencing guidelines.

Ngombwa’s defense also is likely to argue he wasn’t a member of the MDR-Power or that he made any intentional false statements to immigration officials, court documents show. Ngombwa denies shooting, injuring or killing any person during the genocide or assisting others.

U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade has discretion to stray from the guideline sentencing range.

Ngombwa also has pending arson charges in Linn County District Court stemming from a 2013 domestic dispute. He is accused of setting a fire in his home. He is set to plead to those charges Oct. 11.

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