KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Lee’s Summit man was among three arrested this week for their roles in a criminal conspiracy that allegedly included kidnapping, extortion and funding a violent separatist militia group in Cameroon, Africa.
Claude N. Chi, 40, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Francis Chenyi, 40, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Lah Nestor Langmi, 46, of Buffalo, New York, were all charged in a four-count indictment announced by the U.S. Department of Justice Monday.
The indictment alleges the defendants have supported and raised funds for separatist fighters in Cameroon since Jan. 1, 2018. All three are U.S. citizens of Cameroonian origin.
The Nov. 18 indictment, unsealed Monday, alleges the three solicited and raised funds for equipment, supplies, weapons and explosive materials to be used in attacks on the Cameroonian government, security forces, property and “other civilians believed to be enabling the government.”
The funds were raised through online platforms orchestrated by individuals in the U.S. and abroad. Once the funds were raised, they were then allegedly transferred from various financial accounts – controlled by the defendants through intermediaries – to the separatist fighters.
While the three defendants allegedly raised over $350,000 through voluntary donations to fund the militias, prosecutors say they employed more violent methods to secure other sources of funding.
According to court documents, the three would kidnap Cameroonian citizens and demand ransom from the victims’ relatives in the U.S. Once ransom payments were received, the funds were then transferred to the separatist fighters.
Court documents allege the defendants authored a paper that included expenditures related to firearms, ammunition and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Prosecutors say those expenditures also included funds related to the 2020 kidnappings of Cardinal Christian Tumi and Cameroonian traditional leader Sehm Mbinglo II.
Furthermore, the indictment alleges each defendant held a senior-level position within an organization that “supported and directed” militant separatist groups in Northwest Cameroon, namely the Ambazonian Restoration Forces.
Chi, Chenyi and Langmi are charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources intended to be used to carry out a conspiracy to kill, kidnap and maim persons in a foreign country; one count of providing material support or resources intended to be used to carry out a conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States; one count of receiving money from a ransom demand; and one count of participating in a money-laundering conspiracy.
If convicted, the defendants face a prison sentence of up to 15 years for the material support charges, up to three years for the receiving money from a ransom demand charges, and up to 20 years for the money-laundering conspiracy charges.