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Probe: Asylum Seeker Is Impostor

December 20, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A woman awarded political asylum, after claiming she would face genital mutilation if returned to her African homeland, has been found to be an impostor and her story a hoax, an investigation has found.

The woman who called herself Adelaide Abankwah generated widespread publicity when for two years she sought asylum in the United States. Her plight attracted the sympathy of members of Congress and celebrities as well as first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But now an Immigration and Naturalization Service investigation has concluded the story was a fabrication and the woman is actually a 31-year-old former Ghanaian hotel worker named Regina Norman Danson, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The woman had requested asylum after being arrested for trying to enter the country with false immigration papers when she arrived at Kennedy International Airport in New York on March 29, 1997. She was sent to a detention facility in Queens where she remained for two years.

Last year, the Board of Immigration Appeals granted a petition for her to remain in the United States on the ground she had good reason to fear _ as she claimed _ genital cutting if she returned to her native Ghana.

The Post said its own investigation reached the same conclusion as INS officials and documents involved in a confidential inquiry. The newspaper said that Danson acknowledged her identity in an interview, but stood by other parts of her story.

More than a year ago, INS investigators recommended that Danson should be prosecuted on a fraud charge based on documents from Ghana. In an August 1999 report, agents concluded she was an impostor.

The case was referred to the U.S. attorney’s office in New York, but the Justice Department balked at taking the matter further. Justice officials were concerned about embarrassing politicians and administration officials, the Post said.

Meanwhile, the real Adelaide Abankwah, a former college student whose passport was stolen in Ghana four years ago, has lived quietly in Germantown, Md., fearing deportation because of her own immigration problems, the Post reported. She wants her name back for herself.

``I feel like I’m being buried alive,″ the 27-year-old said in an interview. ``I still want my name. ... I refuse to let her (Danson) take that name.″

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