Conspiracy Included Kidnapping Cameroonians, Demanding Ransoms from U.S. Relatives to Fund Separatist Militia Groups in Cameroon
Three defendants were arrested today and made their initial court appearances in connection with an indictment, unsealed today, charging them for their roles in a conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a conspiracy to kidnap persons and use weapons of mass destruction in a foreign country.
Claude N. Chi, 40, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Francis Chenyi, 49, of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Lah Nestor Langmi, 46, of Buffalo, New York, all of whom are U.S. citizens of Cameroonian origin, are charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, on Nov. 18, 2022. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following their arrests and initial court appearances.
The federal indictment alleges that Chi, Chenyi and Langmi have supported and raised funds for separatist fighters in Cameroon since Jan. 1, 2018. As alleged, they each held senior level positions within an organization that supported and directed the militant separatist group known as the Ambazonian Restoration Forces and other separatist fighters in Cameroon’s Northwest Region.
Chi, Chenyi and Langmi allegedly solicited and raised funds for equipment, supplies, weapons and explosive materials to be used in attacks against Cameroonian government personnel, security forces and property, along with other civilians believed to be enabling the government. These funds were raised through online chat applications and payment platforms from individuals located in the United States and abroad. The funds were then transferred from various financial and cryptocurrency accounts controlled by the defendants through intermediaries to the separatist fighters to support attacks in Cameroon.
In addition to more than $350,000 the defendants raised through voluntary donations, the indictment alleges Chi, Chenyi and Langmi conspired with others to kidnap civilians in Cameroon and hold them for ransom. In some instances, U.S. citizens were extorted for ransom payments to secure the release of their kidnapped relatives living in Cameroon. The ransom payments were subsequently transferred to the separatist fighters to fund their operations.
According to the indictment, the defendants authored a document that included a list of expenditures related to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), firearms and ammunition. Other expenditures included funds related to the kidnapping of Cardinal Christian Tumi and of a Cameroonian traditional leader named Sehm Mbinglo II on Nov. 5, 2020.
Chi, Chenyi and Langmi are charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources intended to be used to carry out a conspiracy to kill, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country and one count of providing material support or resources intended to be used to carry out a conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States. They are additionally charged with one count of receiving money from a ransom demand and one count of participating in a money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of up to 15 years in prison for the material support charges, up to three years in prison for the receiving money from a ransom demand charge and up to 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy charge.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Teresa A. Moore for the Western District of Missouri, FBI Assistant Director Robert R. Wells and Special Agent in Charge Charles A. Dayoub of the FBI Kansas City Field Office made the announcement.
This is an ongoing investigation. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or report a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. You can remain anonymous in reporting a tip.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Blackwood for the Western District of Missouri and Trial Attorney Dmitriy Slavin of the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case.
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