Sex Trafficking Charges Has Adviser to Jailed Americans in Haiti on the Run
By MARC LACEY and IAN URBINA • New York Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The man who falsely portrayed himself as a lawyer to become an adviser to the 10 jailed Americans in Haiti is himself seeking a lawyer to fight charges of sex trafficking in El Salvador.
The man, Jorge Puello, who now acknowledges that the sex trafficking charges are pending against him, remained at large Monday, and Dominican, Salvadoran and American law enforcement officials are working with Interpol to interview his relatives and search border and immigration records in hopes of finding him.
Mr. Puello is wanted by the police in at least four countries in connection with charges ranging from sex trafficking of children to making counterfeit documents and violating parole. In May, Salvadoran police uncovered a sex trafficking ring in which they say Mr. Puello was bringing women and girls from Central America and the Caribbean into San Salvador and luring them into prostitution through offers of modeling and office jobs.
Two days after 10 Americans were charged with child abduction for lacking proper papers to take 33 Haitian children across the Dominican border, Mr. Puello contacted the Idaho church where five of the detainees were members. The church passed Mr. Puello’s phone number on to relatives, who contacted him and agreed to his offer of pro bono legal help.
Although he lacked a law degree, Mr. Puello began claiming to be the group’s lawyer and requesting tens of thousands of dollars to free the Americans until contacted by The New York Times on Thursday about the arrest warrant in El Salvador.
Though in interviews last week he initially denied any ties to the trafficking ring in interviews, Mr. Puello told CNN on Sunday that he spent 18 months in a Canadian jail pending an unsuccessful extradition request by United States authorities. He said he also served jail time in the United States for handling money related to a drug-trafficking operation, and he was jailed again briefly between late 2001 and January 2002 for violating parole. He denied the drug charge.
On Friday, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said that while the cases of Mr. Puello and the 10 Americans needed to be investigated separately, he would not release the prisoners until he understood fully how Mr. Puello was involved. In an interview on Saturday, the judge added that he hoped to move quickly in investigating Mr. Puello and at least establishing that the detained Americans were not aware of his criminal background.
Jose Parra, vice president of the Dominican Lawyers Association, also said that he hoped to press charges against Mr. Puello for claiming to be a lawyer while failing to get a license to practice law in the country.
Marc Lacey reported from Port-au-Prince, and Ian Urbina from Washington.