PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The leader of a ring that stole the identities of developmentally-disabled orphans and used them to defraud the IRS out of $1.2 million was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday.
Mohamed Mansaray came to the United States after winning the State Department’s Diversity Visa Lottery, a program that became notorious last week as the route by which New York City bike-path terrorist Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov entered the U.S. in 2010.
He pleaded guilty in June before U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis to stealing the identities of foster children from charities and other programs designed to assist them. The charges against him included wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and aiding in the preparation of false federal income tax returns.
In handing down Mansaray's sentence Monday, a second judge, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III, called his stealing of millions of tax payer’s dollars reprehensible, and said he had no assurance that Mansaray would not do it again if given the chance.
Bartle noted that Mansaray continued the scheme even after his bail revoked and he was jailed last summer, and scolded Sierra Leone native for failing to show any remorse whatsoever for his actions.
Throughout the hearing, Mansaray remained an enigma.
His attorney claimed his client had gone into the world of social services after receiving an MBA from Penn State because of his experiences with his autistic brother. But Mansaray told the judge he went into the non-profit sector because he could not find work in his chosen field, finance.
The scheme that landed him in jail involved several other African immigrants, all of whom either worked for Mansaray as tax preparers or got jobs in social services, which gave them access to their victims' identities.
One of those co-conspirators, Gebah Kamara, of Liberia, was sentenced last week to 2 ½ years for his role in the scheme. Charges against other alleged accomplices are pending.
As Mansaray awaited his sentencing, the courtroom filled with friends and family, many of whom came to testify on his behalf.
“Please have pity on him. It’s been a struggle with three girls, I can only tell you that he is a good man and husband," Manasary's wife, Kapiatu Mansaray, told the judge in a bid for mercy.
She attempted to bring her weeping children to the stand with her, but Bartle did not allow it.
Other family members attempted to argue that as an immigrant, Mansaray didn't know that what he was doing was wrong. Bartle dismissed this claim out of hand. He said Mansaray himself had testified to his extensive education, including attendance in a boarding school in Sierra Leone.
Mansaray also made a bid for leniency, trying to deflect blame and place it on a system that made the provision of social services a closed society, with groups dedicated to one religious community but refusing to provide assistance to others. He said his frustrations eventually led him down a very bad path.
The prosecution scoffed at these claims, saying that someone with an autistic brother should have naturally been deterred from stealing the identities of developmentally-disabled children.
“Mr. Mansaray knew what he was doing when he did it. That’s all there is to it. Somebody who has an autistic brother and who worked with social services would avoid, beyond all realms of reasonability, doing what this defendant did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray told the judge.
In sentencing Mansaray to a decade in prison, Bartle did show some sympathy to his family, ordering that he be incarcerated as close to Philadelphia as possible.