WASHINGTON – The District of Colorado team including an Assistant U.S. Attorneys an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorney, and federal agents who were responsible for investigating and prosecuting Kefelegn Alemu Worku for using false immigration documents to hide from a war crime conviction in Ethiopia were part of the 160 members of the Department of Justice recognized by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, and Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) Director Monty Wilkinson at the 31st Director’s Awards Ceremony today in Washington D.C.
The District of Colorado was one of 31 districts represented at the ceremony which was held in the Great Hall at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building.
In her prepared remarks, Attorney General Lynch told the awardees, “Our honorees include career executives and supervisors; Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys; appellate attorneys and law enforcement officials; administrators, paralegals, and public affairs officers,” said Attorney General Lynch. “These individuals, and so many others, have faced daunting and sometimes dangerous challenges. They have dedicated their leadership and their expertise, their time and their energy, to the service of their mission. And they have remained devoted, at all times, to the high ideals and deeply-held values that animate our country and our cause.”
In 2011, in a café in Aurora, Colorado, an Ethiopian refugee recognized Worku, a notorious official who had participated in the “Red Terror” campaign in Ethiopia and who had been convicted, in abstentia, for torturing and killing over 100 prisoners at the Higher 15 prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopa in the late 1970s. The prosecution team put together a case built on eyewitness testimony from thousands of miles away, and 30 years in the past. The team carefully built its case to use Worku’s lies to convict him. They proved that when Worku applied for refugee status and naturalization, he falsely claimed he had never persecuted anyone for their political beliefs. They proved their case by building trust with the Ethiopian community and by following leads across four states and both coasts to find multiple eyewitnesses to Worku’s persecutions 30 years ago. This effective use of the immigration laws resulted in a 22-year prison sentence for Worku.
“Even today, Worku’s victims shudder when they see his picture,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “Our Colorado team worked tirelessly to hold Worku accountable for the unspeakable acts for which he was responsible; they amply deserve this award and our appreciation. His victims will sleep better at night knowing that he will spend the next 20 plus years in federal prison.”
The Assistant U.S. Attorney, Brenda Taylor, who is now retired, the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney from ICE, Lilian Alves, who has also left government service, and the ICE agents, including Jeffrey W. Lembke, Michael B. Tarantino, Federico E. Cortez, Joseph P. Iannaccone were each recognized by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys for their outstanding contributions to this case.
EOUSA provides oversight, general executive assistance, and direction to the 94 United States Attorneys’ offices around the country. For more information on EOUSA and its mission, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao.
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