DOJ announces kidnapping charges against Haitian gang leaders

Haitian criminal gangs have thrived in the turmoil following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, Reuters noted.

Updated: November 7, 2022 - 4:19pm

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The Department of Justice on Monday announced charges against a group of Haitian gang leaders for their alleged roles in abducting U.S. citizens in 2021.

Seven leaders of five local gangs were named in the indictment. Three of those individuals face conspiracy to commit hostage taking and hostage taking charges for allegedly kidnapping 16 Christian missionaries working near Port-au-Prince in fall 2021. The missionaries are no longer held captive, with a dozen of them having escaped on their own and the rest were released in exchange for ransom payments. 

The Department of State also announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the capture of  Lanmo Sanjou, aka Joseph Wilson, Jermaine Stephenson, aka Gaspiyay, and Vitel'homme Innocent. Sanjou and Stephenson are both leaders in the 400 Mawozo gang while Innocent leads the Barye gang.

"When a U.S. citizen is kidnapped abroad, the Justice Department will bring to bear the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to ensure their safe return home and to hold accountable those responsible," Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a press release.

"As these charges demonstrate, we are committed to working alongside our interagency and international partners to disrupt these kidnapping-for-ransom schemes that endanger the lives of American citizens and that fuel the violent gangs harming the Haitian people," he continued.

The other four individuals are facing charges for their alleged involvement in two other, separate kidnapping incidents. Haitian criminal gangs have thrived in the turmoil following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, Reuters noted.