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Criminals Returned Home to Rule: How a Liberian Opposition Party Executive Claimed to Have Stolen in the U S to Build Road/Bridges for His Country

 

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Courtesy Republication of “The Perspective”

March 10, 2006

The case of Counselor Jonathan Fonati Koffa has taken yet another turn. (Now disbarred for dishonorable behavior). Is it for better or worse? Well, that depends on one’s vantage point. I venture to say that Koffa did get a good deal and here’s why: It was reported that Jonathan Koffa had pled guilty to four federal charges related to the suspected embezzlement of $500,000”. The paper also reported that Koffa could “face as much as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine”. Well, the verdict was finally announced and he gets to spend two and half years behind bars.

Why was the judge so lenient? After all, Mr. Koffa did understand the gravity of his crimes; he went to law school and many still consider him a bright man, although that is now debatable. A lawyer who willfully diverts funds entrusted to his care by his clients, including the US Government, needs to have his head examined, perhaps by a prison psychiatrist. He deserves maximum time. Period. But by US sentencing guidelines where judges enjoy huge discretion, he got a very light sentence.

But why did Koffa get such a light term? The answer may have to do with his ability to adroitly twist reality to his own benefit. He told his attorney that he embezzled the funds to “help build roads and bridges in his native Liberia”. Defense Attorney Rick Gammon was so moved by Koffa’s compassion that he said, “He truly had a noble cause, but he went about it the wrong way”.

Well, one can understand the eagerness of a defense attorney to buy and sell such a flimsy lie as a defense to save his client’s hide. But one has to wonder about the depth of the prosecution’s capability or desire to discern the truth. According to the article, “Prosecutors didn’t dispute that Jonathan Koffa spent nearly $465,000 he took from clients to help with public work projects in the eastern African country where he was born”.

Well, first of all, if the prosecution believes that Liberia is an East African country, that team is not worth its salt, to put it mildly. Was any effort made at all to authenticate the claim that $465,000 was actually spent on public works projects in Liberia or anywhere else by Jonathan Koffa? The prosecution adds one twist: They believe that “the projects he helped finance were designed to help his candidate” (Charles Brumskine), in the last presidential elections. Oh, really?

Well, it is a matter of record that Jonathan Koffa has a penchant for being creative with the truth. For example:

· Koffa once claimed he was born in Chicago, Illinois.
· He later listed Monrovia, Liberia as his place of birth.
· Although he grew up in Liberia, he claimed he was fluent in French and Japanese, but did not speak his native dialect, Kru.
· Kola also claimed on official papers that his second marriage was his first.
· He had a privileged up bringing. His father was an army general and later ambassador. He went to elite schools. Yet he claimed to have pulled himself up by his boot stripes.

A man who is so flexible and creative with the truth needs to be more thoroughly cross-examined before conclusions are reached. Is this Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Mr. Koffa may indeed sport at least two personalities and probably many more. For example:

By exhibiting one smooth personality, Koffa has the ability to impress many he comes in contact with. He has his share of supporters in the Liberian community as well as outside. A former co-worker, Andy Gay, Zebulon Town Attorney wrote in Koffa’s behalf: “He would have been one of the last persons that I would have had any suspicion of wrongdoing”.

Joining Attorney Gay to appeal to Judge Flanagan for leniency were “heads of charity Koffa worked with, school friends and a pastor of his church” according to the article. We may conclude Koffa betrayed their trust when he switched personalities, yet they pled for leniency for him and he got it.

There are those, however, who don’t think Koffa is a golden boy. He took $199,000 from a couple refinancing their home. He also converted to his personal use the amount of $180,000 belonging to the US Department of Agriculture, $73,429 from a mobile home dealer in Zebulon and $12,000 from the town of Rolesville. (He is expected to make full financial retribution to his victims otherwise he can expect to stay a little longer at his new address). And the state charges are yet to follow; we will bring you the up date.

I think it is clear that Jonathan Koffa has told many a lie to suit himself. It is a shame that instead of being remorseful for his crime, which is necessary for rehabilitation, he has chosen to tell more lies. He did not steal for Liberia. He stole for himself. Liberia has its share of troubles but the nation does not send its citizens abroad to cheat others just to return the loot home to build bridges and roads. That is the most ridiculous defense I’ve ever heard and those folks bought it. They really must be naïve.

 

Theodore T. Hodge
Thodge@theperspective.org

 

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