Public Safety

Rwandan man convicted of naturalization fraud will stay in jail pending sentencing

Agent testifies the man participated in 1994 genocide

Ken Ngombwa
Ken Ngombwa

A federal judge will keep a Rwanda man, convicted last week for naturalization fraud, in custody pending sentencing after hearing testimony Thursday that he has a pending arson charge in state court. The man also allegedly has a previous conviction and outstanding warrant for his participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Homeland Security Special Agent Michael Fischels testified agents traveled to Rwanda during the investigation of Gervais “Ken” Ngombwa, 56, to verify documents of Ngombwa’s conviction in the “Gacaca court,” community courts of Rwanda, for participation in transporting militia members involved with the genocide of nearly 1 million Rwandans. Ngombwa, a Hutu and a leader with MDR-Power, the group that aligned with Hutu extremists in the war, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison, Fischels said.

Ngombwa was convicted last Friday of one count of unlawfully procuring or attempting to procure naturalization or citizenship; one count of procuring citizenship to which he was not entitled; one count of conspiracy to unlawfully procure citizenship; and one count of making a materially false statement to agents of the Department of Homeland Security.

Evidence at trial showed Ngombwa made false statements in an attempt to obtain citizenship for himself and family members who came with him to the United States from Rwanda. Following the genocide, tens of thousands of refugee applicants were being identified for relocation to the United States. Officials also testified that Ngombwa made false statements to immigration authorities in 2014.

Fischels said during the detention hearing that Ngombwa also was indicted and has an active outstanding warrant in Rwanda for his activities related to the genocide. Witnesses described to agents Ngombwa’s participation in the MDR-Power group and some witnesses said they saw him shoot people and transport the militia to areas before attacks happened.

Fischels said Ngombwa at trial testified he wasn’t a member of MDR-Power but agents also obtained periodical and newspaper articles from Rwanda which identified Ngombwa as a MDR-Power member.

Fischels also testified about Ngombwa’s pending charges in Linn County District Court. He was charged in July 2013 with second-degree arson following a domestic dispute at his home. Police responded to the dispute and advised a woman to leave and then Ngombwa’s daughter and her boyfriend saw Ngombwa inside the house, waiving goodbye. The daughter said her father had matches and when they saw smoke they called 911, Fischels said. Ngombwa then showed up at the Linn County Jail, saying he wanted to kill himself, refused to leave and then was arrested.


Fischels said an arson investigation found the fire was intentionally set. Ngombwa made an insurance claim for $75,000 and the insurance company denied the claim. Ngombwa then testified during a deposition in a civil action on the claim that he didn’t intentionally start the fire.

John Burns, Ngombwa’s lawyer, asked in court if the outstanding warrant from Rwanda said Ngombwa was living in Germany.

Fischels said they had no information that Ngombwa lived in Germany. He admitted that he didn’t know if there was another Gervais Ngombwa in Rwanda.

Burns argued Ngombwa wasn’t a flight risk because he had been on pretrial release for a year and he had stable employment, until recently, as a custodian for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. He was let go after being injured.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Narayan argued Ngombwa was a flight risk because of his outstanding warrant in Rwanda, and his pending arson charge. The crimes in Rwanda were motives for the naturalization offense. Now, he has been convicted and faces up to 30 years in prison and he will lose his U.S. citizenship.

U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade said the pending charges in Rwanda and his recent conviction would “give him a desire to flee. She added the evidence in the arson case is also “compelling.”

Sentencing hasn’t been set at this time.

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