“Lawyer” for Americans In Haiti Arrested
Mike Levine • Fox News
The self-proclaimed "lawyer" for 10 Americans arrested in Haiti has been arrested himself in the Dominican Republic, and he is expected to come to the United States to face justice, Fox News has learned exclusively.
Jorge Puello was arrested last night in the Dominican Republic, after being under surveillance for "some time" by authorities there, sources told Fox News.
After 10 Baptist missionaries were taken into custody by Haitian police in January for allegedly trying to smuggle dozens of children out of the earthquake-ravaged country, Puello announced that he was their defense counsel.
But news of his criminal history, including warrants for past immigration violations inside the United States, soon began to surface, and he fled from Haiti to the Dominican Republic.
Interpol, the international police agency, recently issued a warrant for Puello’s arrest, and officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service have been working with Dominican Republic officials to hammer out an extradition deal, according to the sources.
The warrant approved by Interpol covers federal charges filed against Puello in Vermont in 2002.
He was arrested at the time for alleged human trafficking, after he was caught trying to smuggle people over the Canadian border into the United States, one source said.
But a Canadian judge ordered his release pending extradition to the United States, and he then fled.
U.S. authorities didn't know where to find him until news coverage of the earthquake in Haiti, and his involvement, brought him to their attention again.
U.S. and international officials are currently working out the final details for Puello’s extradition to the United States. It’s unclear when he would actually arrive on U.S. soil.
In February, Puello told the New York Times from an unverified location that he was not guilty of anything, and he vowed to turn himself in soon to prove he had done nothing wrong.
“All I’m waiting for is for my lawyer to tell me, ‘Surrender,’ ” he said.
But, according to the New York Times, he then “abruptly disappeared” after it turned out he was not a lawyer at all.
Puello could not fully explain why he became involved in the Americans’ case when he knew arrest warrants were out for him, the New York Times said.
Nine of the 10 Americans held in January, most of them from Idaho, have since been released. The group's leader remains jailed in Haiti.
Meanwhile, Puello is under investigation by other countries, including El Salvador, for alleged human trafficking involving sex tourism.