Before long, she had a $13-an-hour job at Manchester’s Housing Authority in New Hampshire, her children were enrolled in Catholic school and she was on her way to financing a comfortable American lifestyle through mortgages, loans and credit cards.
NOT GUILTY PLEA
Munyenyezi (moon-yehn-YEH’-zee) has pleaded not guilty to two counts of lying to obtain U.S. citizenship on her refugee and naturalization applications, by denying any role in the Rwanda genocide. She is scheduled for trial in May 2011.
Her dream life started falling apart years earlier. She filed for bankruptcy in May 2008, walking away from hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt: a $222,000 mortgage, $14,125 in student loans, $4,198 in municipal taxes and fees and $30,000 in credit card and other unsecured debt.
“She lived here for probably two years without paying her mortgage; she didn’t pay her bills for a good two years,” said Tom Prince of Manchester, who lived across the street from Munyenezi. “We all feel she took advantage.”
Assets she listed included $1,500 in a checking account, $2,000 worth of furniture and $500 in clothing. She also owned a 2000 Toyota 4Runner valued at $12,000.
Her bankruptcy lawyers did not return calls seeking comment.
In early 2003, she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen and bought a three-bedroom home on Howe Street for $190,000 in November, according to city records. She refinanced it three years later for $235,000.
She worked full time from 2001-2005 as a family services coordinator for the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Director Dick Dunfey would not comment on Munyenyezi, citing office policy.
When she first moved in, Prince helped her clean out a backyard pool and get its filter in working order.
Next-door neighbor Scott Silver helped with moving things, including her new wide-screen TV, and cleared her walkway of snow.
“She knew nothing about owning a home,” Prince said. “She never said, ‘Thank you.’”
When she didn’t need their help, Munyenyezi was quiet and kept to herself. They described her three daughters as polite, smart girls who played basketball. Now teenagers, they are living with relatives in the U.S.
SCARS ON SHOULDERS
Both men said they saw large scars on Munyenyezi’s shoulders and arms when she wore halter dresses. At least once a year she traveled to Africa for two to four weeks at a time, they said. Her Rav4 vanity plate was “Shalom,” her husband’s name.
Silver, a real estate agent, said he was shocked when Munyenyezi refinanced her modest home. He said she had consulted him in advance about refinancing and he told her he didn’t think she had a shot.
“How in the world she ever did that I don’t know,” Silver said. “She knew how to work the system.”
In a 2005 interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Munyenyezi gave a glimpse of her determination.
“I am a fighter,” she said. “I like to be independent. I worked so hard to be here. I do what I have to do to survive.”
Last year, Munyenyezi obtained an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Manchester Community College.
Federal prosecutors decline to say how Munyenyezi came to their attention. But, in court documents, immigration agents describe interviews with alleged witnesses to the atrocities. A federal affidavit says Munyenyezi and her husband, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, were extremist Hutus who participated in roadblocks and ID checks that resulted in numerous Tutsi rapes and killings.