Jonathan Fonati Koffa Guilty of Embezzlement: “He did it for Liberia”

By: Theodore T. Hodge

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Reposted: June 9, 2016

Though this article was published on March 10, 2006, current developments in Liberia necessitate the re-posting of the article.


Counselor J. Fonati Koffa

The case of Counselor Jonathan Fonati Koffa has taken yet another turn. (Now disbarred for dishonorable behavior). Is it for better or worse? Well, that depends on one’s vantage point. I venture to say that Koffa did get a good deal and here’s why: It was reported that Jonathan Koffa had pled guilty to four federal charges related to the suspected embezzlement of $500,000”. The paper also reported that Koffa could “face as much as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine”. Well, the verdict was finally announced and he gets to spend two and half years behind bars. 

Why was the judge so lenient? After all, Mr. Koffa did understand the gravity of his crimes; he went to law school and many still consider him a bright man, although that is now debatable. A lawyer who willfully diverts funds entrusted to his care by his clients, including the US Government, needs to have his head examined, perhaps by a prison psychiatrist. He deserves maximum time. Period. But by US sentencing guidelines where judges enjoy huge discretion, he got a very light sentence.

But why did Koffa get such a light term? The answer may have to do with his ability to adroitly twist reality to his own benefit. He told his attorney that he embezzled the funds to “help build roads and bridges in his native Liberia”. Defense Attorney Rick Gammon was so moved by Koffa’s compassion that he said, “He truly had a noble cause, but he went about it the wrong way”.

Well, one can understand the eagerness of a defense attorney to buy and sell such a flimsy lie as a defense to save his client’s hide. But one has to wonder about the depth of the prosecution’s capability or desire to discern the truth. According to the article, “Prosecutors didn’t dispute that Jonathan Koffa spent nearly $465,000 he took from clients to help with public work projects in the eastern African country where he was born”.

Well, first of all, if the prosecution believes that Liberia is an East African country, that team is not worth its salt, to put it mildly. Was any effort made at all to authenticate the claim that $465,000 was actually spent on public works projects in Liberia or anywhere else by Jonathan Koffa? The prosecution adds one twist: They believe that “the projects he helped finance were designed to help his candidate” (Charles Brumskine), in the last presidential elections. Oh, really?

Well, it is a matter of record that Jonathan Koffa has a penchant for being creative with the truth. For example:

· Koffa once claimed he was born in Chicago, Illinois.
· He later listed Monrovia, Liberia as his place of birth.
· Although he grew up in Liberia, he claimed he was fluent in French and Japanese, but did not speak his native dialect, Kru.
· Kola also claimed on official papers that his second marriage was his first.
· He had a privileged up bringing. His father was an army general and later ambassador. He went to elite schools. Yet he claimed to have pulled himself up by his boot stripes.

A man who is so flexible and creative with the truth needs to be more thoroughly cross-examined before conclusions are reached. Is this Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Mr. Koffa may indeed sport at least two personalities and probably many more. For example:

By exhibiting one smooth personality, Koffa has the ability to impress many he comes in contact with. He has his share of supporters in the Liberian community as well as outside. A former co-worker, Andy Gay, Zebulon Town Attorney wrote in Koffa’s behalf: “He would have been one of the last persons that I would have had any suspicion of wrongdoing”.

Joining Attorney Gay to appeal to Judge Flanagan for leniency were “heads of charity Koffa worked with, school friends and a pastor of his church” according to the article. We may conclude Koffa betrayed their trust when he switched personalities, yet they pled for leniency for him and he got it.

There are those, however, who don’t think Koffa is a golden boy. He took $199,000 from a couple refinancing their home. He also converted to his personal use the amount of $180,000 belonging to the US Department of Agriculture, $73,429 from a mobile home dealer in Zebulon and $12,000 from the town of Rolesville. (He is expected to make full financial retribution to his victims otherwise he can expect to stay a little longer at his new address). And the state charges are yet to follow; we will bring you the up date.

I think it is clear that Jonathan Koffa has told many a lie to suit himself. It is a shame that instead of being remorseful for his crime, which is necessary for rehabilitation, he has chosen to tell more lies. He did not steal for Liberia. He stole for himself. Liberia has its share of troubles but the nation does not send its citizens abroad to cheat others just to return the loot home to build bridges and roads. That is the most ridiculous defense I’ve ever heard and those folks bought it. They really must be naïve.

sylvester moses
The story is relevant. Anyway, Counselor Fonati Koffa paid his dues in North Carolina, and the Good Lord gave him a second chance.

Dismayingly, though, having gone through such humbling experiences, one thought the brother learnt something about humility. But the heavy - handedness of the Special Presidential Task Force seems to suggest otherwise. For instance, the raiding of Senator Sherman's house by a squad of officers in search of some 2010 documents as if they were looking for missing cache of weapons, and the handcuffing of Speaker Tyler (like he committed treason) were completely unnecessary.

Needless to say, lawyers of all people should know that a suspect's right to not talk, or cooperate with investigators isn't an excuse to humiliate that person. Indeed, corruption ought to be tamed, however, let it be done courteously, impartially, and legally; in short, professionally. After all, the court is the decider.
sylvester moses at 12:16AM, 2016/06/11.
sylvester moses
Another indicator that Minister Koffa's humbling experiences didn't teach him "humility" is in agreeing to head an alleged corruption case which he knew fell under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system; that's why after shrill criticisms the jusice ministry quietly appointed him "Special Prosecutor". Moreover, from the president's interferences in few cases handled by former Justice Minister Christiana Tar, he should've guessed that the rationale for an in - house probe of such a high profile matter was to control the outcome. And to confirm the supposition, rather than announcing that the Task Force will indict everyone mentioned in the Global Witness report, Cllr. Koffa reportedly said "The Task Force might indict everyone mentioned in the Global Witness report": a nod to probable selective justice scheming.

In view of the above, we were shell - shocked when one "Daily Observer" headline screamed "Cllr. Koffa Briefs Traditional Leaders on GW Bribery Scandal Investigation". The case is partly in court, was the action an effort to calm the confusion of traditional rulers? Amazingly, these were the same rural leaders treated with public ridicule, and ignored few months ago by ministers when they went to complain about government's habitual seizure of ancestral lands - perhaps, under a misused eminent domain law.

To end, the ceaseless manipulation by EJS of a populace suffering from pervasive poverty, which she enabled by apathy, is unconscionable. And reflecting on the fact that she mastermined the civil war makes one wonder whether our once revered bureaucrat isn't losing it slowly. Frankly, Brother Koffa deserves some sympathy, because he would soon find out that his equally brilliant colleague, former Justice Minister Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, was just obeying questionable orders.
sylvester moses at 07:54AM, 2016/06/11.
Mr.Moses, I agree that Mr.Koffa has paid his dues in America. This article though relevant to the times, is an attempted hit piece to discredit this task force. When will we liberian stop being divisive in every walk of life and learn to adopt patriotism and putting country first? This task force is not about Koffa, he is a mere tool! how about spending time on the crime that was committed. They are pursuing people that raped and sold their own country in broad daylight!! We cry about corruption all day every day, John Morlue came to fight it, we ran him out of time because we didn't appreciate his procedure of naming and shaming. The Task force had to arrest these men because they were obstructing justice. The Task force had search warrants from the government to search their residence and so forth, and they did everything possible to obstruct and prevent this investigation( including paying people to gather in their yards and prevent officials from entering), therefore they were arrested. We cannot fight corruption in an orthodox faction because corruption in Liberia is embedded in the fabric of our society, therefore, we must use unorthodox means to fight it. I don't know Jonathan Koffa from Jonathan Brown, but let's let this thing play itself out. So please, Mr. Hodge, I have high esteem for you, but I don't know if you have an agenda or dog in this fight that prompted you to rehash a 10 years old story, but let's focus on the crime that was committed and how our country was raped and sold for generations to come, not Fonati Koffa.
Wallo at 08:05AM, 2016/06/11.
Mae Nimleydee Nimley-Moore
A convicted criminal for stealing, jailed and disbarred from practicing the very profession(law) in the very country (America) where he studied law and lived most of his adult life!This guy stinks! Even a street thug is better than him! But this only goes to show the indecency and moral bankruptcy of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who would appoint such a smelly character as head of whichever task force or commission.
Mae Nimleydee Nimley-Moore at 09:01AM, 2016/06/11.
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