He's been living in the Philadelphia region for close to two decades, but now that residency is in jeopardy for his alleged role in war crimes.
Investigators say Jabbateh was a commander in the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia, a rebel faction engaged in civil war in Liberia in the 1990s.
According to the Federal Indictment, Jabbateh a.k.a. "Jungle Jabbah:"
"...personally committed or ordered troops under his command to commit...murder of civilian noncombatants...sexual enslavement of women...public raping of women...maiming...torturing...conscription of child soldiers...execution of prisoners of war...desecration and mutilation of corpses..." (among other unspeakable crimes)
"What caught him here wasn't the atrocities that he committed," said Ed Turzanski. "It's the fact that in an immigration filing, in trying to get asylum, he lied to the federal government. He lied to INS."
Turzanski is the John Templeton Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He says atrocities were committed on both sides of the Liberian conflict, and the United States Attorney's Office says the U.S. doesn't have jurisdiction to bring genocide charges.
But in the indictment, Jabbateh allegedly denied he ever committed a crime or engaged in genocide on his immigration papers. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office here in Philadelphia says investigators determined those statements to be false, but wouldn't provide specifics.
Jabbateh has never been charged in his native Liberia for war crimes. And it's unclear what launched the federal investigation
"As often happens in very conflicted situations, you have someone who may have committed some terrible acts," said Ed Turzanski. "They're hard to prove."
Jabbateh was faces up to 30 years behind bars if convicted. His defense attorney did not return our phone calls.