Four Florida men were arrested in connection with orchestrating the calculated, violent and brazen assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse from U.S. soil, authorities announced this week.
From their base in South Florida, the conspirators raised money through their South Florida companies, then hired and equipped soldiers from Colombia who carried out the coup d’état, hoping to reap windfall benefits from security and construction contracts granted by those they believed would assume power in Haiti following the president’s demise, authorities said.
“This was both a human tragedy and an assault on core democratic principles,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen in a news conference announcing the arrests. “The impact on Haiti and its people continues to be felt to this day.”
Seven others have been arrested and charged in the case, bringing the total to 11 people who face charges in Florida in connection with the assassination, officials said.
Authorities said the arrests are part of a wide-ranging law enforcement investigation involving U.S., Haitian and Colombian nationals and dual U.S.-Haitian citizens.
“Their actions violated U.S. law, and now they face U.S. justice,” Olsen said. “Let me be very clear, the United States will not tolerate those who would plot from our soil to carry out acts of violence abroad just as we will not tolerate those outside the U.S. who would plot to conduct violence in this country.”
Nine of the men faced charges of conspiracy, providing material support and resources to a conspiracy to kidnap or kill outside the United States, resulting in death and conspiracy to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States, officials said.
Two face charges of conspiracy to commit export violations, submitting false and misleading export information and smuggling ballistic vests from the United States to Haiti.
The planning began in February 2021, involving three men with South Florida companies, authorities allege.
Two suspects, Arcangel Pretel Ortiz, 50, a Colombian national and resident of Miami, and Antonio Intriago 59, a Venezuelan American, were principals of Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy and Counter Terrorist Unit Security (CTU).
A third suspect, Walter Veintemilla, 54, an Ecuadorian American, was a principal of Worldwide Capital Lending Group.
The initial plan was to oust Moïse and replace him with Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 64, a dual Haitian-American citizen with political aspirations in Haiti. In exchange, once Sanon became president, he would award lucrative contracts to CTU for infrastructure projects in Haiti, the provision of security forces, and the provision of military equipment to a Sanon-led Haitian government, officials said.
Through his company Worldwide, Veintemilla agreed to help finance a coup d’etat, extending a $175,000 line of credit to CTU and sending money to co-conspirators in Haiti to purchase ammunition, authorities alleged.
“Veintemilla expected to reap significant financial benefits through Worldwide should President Moise be replaced as president, as did Ortiz and Intriago through CTU,” the DOJ said in a statement.
The plan included hiring 20 Colombian nationals with military training to provide security to Sanon and shipping 20 ballistic vests from South Florida to Haiti, claiming they were medical supplies but were actually for the “assault force that ultimately killed President Moïse,” authorities said.
But by June 2021, a month before the assassination, the plan changed when the suspects realized that Sanon had neither the constitutional qualifications nor the popular support of the Haitian people to become president, officials said.
They shifted their support from Sanon to a former Haitian Supreme Court judge, who contracted with CTU and Worldwide to serve the companies’ financial interests upon becoming president, officials alleged.
“A central tenet of every democracy in the world is that those who want to change their government must do so peacefully through ballots, not bullets,” Olsen said. “These defendants thought they could secure Haitian immunity for their crime, and we will now deliver Justice in a U.S courtroom.”
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