A Kansas National Guard member who served in Liberia has been charged with helping an AWOL Liberian soldier commit visa fraud in a case the government contends posed a potential security risk to the United States.
Specialist William Reed Halvorsen, of Elmsdale, also was charged with lying to immigration authorities about the whereabouts of Liberian national Devine Togba Pearson. Prosecutors separately charged Pearson with visa fraud.
Halvorsen did not reply to an e-mail, and no one answered his phone. His public defender, Ronald Wurtz, said Thursday that he had just entered his appearance in the case and did not have a very good feel for it yet. No attorney was listed for Pearson.
The government alleged that Halvorsen returned to Liberia as a tourist last month and helped Pearson fraudulently obtain a visitor's visa to enter the United States. Pearson allegedly failed to inform immigration authorities on his visa application and during his interview that he was an active member of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
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The government contends that had the consular officer who handled his application known Pearson was an active member of the Liberian forces, he would have asked for the paperwork authorizing his leave.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaints that by failing to provide that information, Pearson, whom it called "a foreign military asset," went AWOL from the Liberian forces and committed visa fraud, "thus causing a potential national security risk to the United States."
ICE agent Jesse Stoker said in his affidavit that Halvorsen told the consular officer who handled the visa application that he paid for Pearson's trip to the United States because Pearson had helped him out when he was in Liberia a year ago and that he had promised to repay the favor.
Halvorsen also allegedly told officials this week that he did not know Pearson's whereabouts. He told agents he took Pearson to a local bus line in Emporia over the Fourth of July weekend where he boarded a bus to Minnesota.
But agents later found there were no tickets or travel information in Pearson's name. Halvorsen later admitted after being contacted again by ICE about the supposed trip that he misled agents about Pearson's travel, stating he wanted to be a good friend to Pearson and contact him before agents located him, according to the affidavit. He then stated Pearson was in the Baltimore area.
It was unclear from the court record Thursday whether Pearson was in custody.