Three U.S. citizens, including one from Lee’s Summit, face criminal charges for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to support terrorism in the central African nation of Cameroon, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Claude Ngenevu Chi, 40; Francis Chenyi Sr., 49, of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Lah Nestor Langmi, 46, of Buffalo, New York, are charged with conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, receiving money from a ransom demand and money laundering. A grand jury indictment filed in the Western District of Missouri’s Kansas City office was unsealed Monday following the arrests and initial court appearances of all three men.
Prosecutors allege the men, all of Cameroonian origin, worked in concert to provide support for a militant separatist group known as the Ambazonia Restoration Forces and other separatists based in the nation’s English-speaking regions. The country has been in the throes of a rebellion launched in 2017 with the goal of breaking away from the French-speaking majority country to form a new state.
Chi, Chenyi and Langmi are accused of raising more than $350,000 to support the separatist group through donations. They also allegedly participated in a conspiracy to kidnap and hold ransom Cameroon civilians and raise more funds through extortion.
Prosecutors allege the conspiracy began at least around January 2018 and continued through present day. Money was allegedly moved by them through various financial accounts along with the use of cryptocurrency, according to prosecutors.
Investigators found online chat messages that allegedly demonstrate coordination between the men to raise money for kidnapping operations and acts of violence. Discussions online included the creation of improvised explosive devices and a list of targets, including government, law enforcement and legal centers, authorities allege.
According to the federal indictment, a list of expenditures connected to the men detailed the kidnapping of Cardinal Christian Tumi, , and Sehm Mbinglo II, a tribal leader, who were among a dozen people held against their will and then released in November 2020.