El Salvador police suspect Jorge Puello (also Jorge Aaron Bentath Puello) of leading a trafficking ring in the Caribbean and Central America. Interpol has an arrest warrant out for a Jorge Anibal Torres Puello.
The head of the Salvadoran border police, Commissioner Jorge Callejas, said in a telephone interview that he was investigating accusations that a man with a Dominican passport that identified him as Jorge Anibal Torres Puello led a human trafficking ring that recruited Dominican women and under-age Nicaraguan girls by offering them jobs and then putting them to work as prostitutes in El Salvador.Same guy? He says no, natch. But the head of the Salvadoran police says it's the same guy, based on a photo. The judge agreed. Plus, the judge thought strange that Puello arrived with four bodyguards. The judge has turned to DHS for support. (sigh)
The Central Valley Baptist Church in Idaho hired Puello as a legal adviser for their detained colleagues in Haiti. The group had another lawyer, but Puello fired him -- after he hired him in the first place to represent the Americans at Haitian legal proceedings. Puello accused Coq of bribing officials. He sort of threw him right under the bus, but it appears that Coq was putting in a lot of hours on the case.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The Haitian lawyer for 10 U.S. Baptists charged with child kidnapping tried to bribe the missionaries' way out of jail and has been fired, the attorney who hired him said Saturday night.
The Haitian lawyer, Edwin Coq, denied the allegation. He said the $60,000 he requested from the Americans' families was his fee. Jorge Puello, the attorney in the neighboring Dominican Republic retained by relatives of the 10 American missionaries after their arrest last week, told The Associated Press that he fired Coq on Friday night. He had hired Coq to represent the detainees at Haitian legal proceedings. Coq orchestrated "some kind of extortion with government officials" that would have led to the release of nine of the 10 missionaries, Puello charged.
..."I have worked for 10 people for four days working all hours," he said. "Look at what hour I'm working now, responding to these calls. I have the right to this money." On Friday, Coq had told the AP that he was working for no fee. Puello said Coq initially requested $10,000 but kept asking for bigger and bigger amounts. He said that when Coq reached $60,000, he said he could guarantee it would lead to the Americans' release.
Puello's accusations against Coq were a little bit vague. "Some kind of scheme..." ... essentially waving it off, just like that.
Coq orchestrated "some kind of extortion with government officials" that would have led to the release of nine of the 10 missionaries, Puello charged. "He had some people inside the court that asked him for money, and he was part of this scheme," Puello said.
I noticed reading the stories that this connection between Puello and Coq is not immediately clear. Puello hired Coq, and then he fired him and accused him, after Coq had done a bunch of work. According to Coq, one of the ten people being held knows more than the others... hold that thought.
Meanwhile, it's not clear that Puello is even licensed to practice law in the Dominican Republic. Basically, he seems to have a credibility deficit. He claimed to work for a 45-person law firm, but that could not be confirmed. He claimed to provide his services pro bono, but that is not exactly true either. He claims to be president of the Sephardic Jewish community in the Dominican Republic. That may or may not be true. Certainly, the pictures of him floating around show him in a yarmulke. (NYT story, top link)
Mr. Puello said that he had been born in Yonkers, N.Y., and that his mother was Dominican. He said that his full name was Jorge Puello and that he had no other names. But then in a subsequent interview he said his name was Jorge Aaron Bentath Puello. He said he was born in October 1976, and not in October 1977, which the police report indicates is the birth date of the suspect in the Salvadoran case. The report said the police had found documents connected to the Sephardic Jewish community in a house in San Salvador where the traffickers had held women.^^^^^^^
A case of mistaken identity? All a big misunderstanding? Everyone had the best intentions? Well, it may be that we have another bad apple here.
Coq said Thursday that the group's leader, Laura Silsby of Meridian, Idaho, deceived the others by telling them she had the proper documents to remove the children from Haiti. The Dominican consul in Haiti, Carlos Castillo, has said he warned Silsby on Jan. 29, the day the group was detained at the border, that she lacked the required papers and risked being arrested for child trafficking. Asked if Silsby had deceived the other nine Baptists by assuring them she had the proper papers, Puello said Saturday, "I believe that is true."
...NBC News reported Saturday that there are divisions within the jailed group. It said some of the missionaries handed an NBC producer a note through bars of their holding cell earlier in the day that listed the names of all of them but Silsby and her former nanny and partner in the orphanage, Charisa Coulter.
OK, here's a mighty blogger, The Daily Bastardette, and she's going to blow a few cannonballs through this thing right now.
I've been curious about Jorge Puello since his name appeared about 10 days ago as the legal adviser for the New Lifers. Puello made a big splat on CNN when he complained about the severe conditions under which his clients were jailed: "No air conditioning! No Electricity! Very disturbing!"
According to news reports Puello was hired by Laura Silby's church, Central Valley Baptist, after either the church or Laura Silsby and her gang rejected the attorney (or attorneys) recommended by American Consular Services. Puello, in turn, hired Haitian attorney Edwin Coq to represent the detainees, even though Coq speaks Creole and no English. What to make of that nonsense?
Last week, according to whose story you believe, Puello fired Coq, claiming that the Haitian had demanded a $60,000 fee and attempted to bribe the prisoners back to the US. Coq denied the accusation, and said he quit because the families back in Idaho never sent him the $60,000 he needed to take the case. Sources inside of Haiti who know Coq claim that he is an "honest young lawyer" and refused to believe Puello's claim. Coq has complained to the press that Puello has ruined his reputation.
...Over the weekend I spent quite a bit of time looking for information on Jorge Puello. I could find no listing for him as a Dominican attorney. What I did find was Puello Consulting/Abogados Consultores, operated by Jorge Puello and his brother Alejandro, located at Avenida Duarte 359, in Santo Domingo....This intro is followed by a long laundry list of legal services: including acquisitions, mergers and alliances, banking and finance, consumer protection and antitrust, corporate services, collections, family law, immigration and naturalization, intellectual property, trade, investment, taxes, public and private contracting, real estate, and trust.
Not a word about criminal law--domestic or international. And no word anywhere of how CVBC hooked up with Puello, and why it would hire what appears to be a civil law outsourcer with no criminal law section to take on a high profile international incident. It only got curiouser and curiouser with the hiring of Coq and the dust-up that followed.
...Even if Puello is found to be the wrong man in the Salvadoran investigation, there are still questions:Great questions.
- Is Jorge Puello a lawyer?
- Why did Central Valley Baptist Church reject consular recommendations and hire what appears to be a outsourcer with seeingly no criminal expertise to defend its members?
- Why did Puello hire a Haitian lawyer who couldn't communicate in any meaningful way with his clients and then accuse the lawyer of attempting to bribe the court,
- Did Puello and Laura Silsby have a legal or personal pre-earthquake relationship, which led CVBC to hire him as legal adviser; possibly a relationship regarding the leasing of the Puerto Plata Diocese-owned Education and Training Center in Cabarete that was to be converted into the temporary New Life Children's Refuge?
- Was Puello involved in the attempt to move the "orphans" across the border?
- Why is Puello lying about being paid by the New Lifers? (And I believe he is lying)
And, if Puello is the right man:
- Who is paying Puello and who is funding the defense?
- Did he plan to traffick the children?
- is this a simple matter of scavengers scavenging scavengers?
So, might Chabad have anything to do with all this? Chabad has centers in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and Chabad has been very helpful in Haitian relief efforts, because Chabad has all these networks already in place. A "web of contacts" can give a person a "unique ability to push shipments through." People tend to be very proud of who they know, of their ability to make things happen. Cause it's all good, see? Sunshine and flowers and puppies, and drugs and weapons and kidneys and human slaves....
http://www.chabad.org/news/article_cdo/aid/1096220/jewish/Agencies-Work-to-Strengthen-Supply-Lines.htm (January 17, 2010)
In the wake of anarchy, violence and looting taking rein in isolated pockets across the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, calls poured in from all corners for a Dominican Republic rabbi, whose web of contacts among local governments, foreign missions and American suppliers gave him a unique ability to push shipments through.
From S. Domingo, just hours, and a world away, from the destruction on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shimon Pelman said that troops, doctors and diplomats from Israel, Mexico, South Africa and France, had all requested help in obtaining food and medical supplies. ...Pelman, the Israeli-born director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dominican Republic, spent Friday in Port-au-Prince, compiling requests from United Nations personnel and members of the Israel Defense Force’s Home Front Command that had arrived that morning at the capital’s small airport.
...After consulting with members of his 300 family-strong Jewish community in S. Domingo, and Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, the Puerto Rico-based director of Chabad of the Caribbean, Pelman said that he will be dispatching a truck of supplies for the Haitian people each day. He said that a U.N. convoy would provide the necessary protection.Interesting.
It takes networks. That's the thing about rings -- they're networks. They include people from all points in the supply chain, lowest to highest. Here's another one, uncovered by News of the World:
Admin boss Yis Jean Guerson is responsible for providing medical aid to victims of the January 12 disaster with respected local aid group AST (Association de la Santé Pour Tous - "health for all"). But, unknown to dedicated colleagues, Guerson secretly heads a child trafficking ring and exploits his position of trust scouring camps for a stock of orphaned, lost and homeless youngsters.
...On Wednesday he lined up eight youngsters ranging from a three-month-old baby to a 13-year old girl for our reporters to choose from. Not once in all our dealings did Guerson ask WHO we were or WHERE the children would end up. In fact he was eager to boost the price to £5,000 EACH by offering his gang's services in SMUGGLING the kids out of the country. Warning of the danger of trying to do it without his help, Guerson said: "The big problem is you need papers."Some American people have been caught because they tried to take the children out without having proper contacts. "But if you pay me I can get the children delivered across the border into the Dominican Republic by my man who will hand them over there WITH proper papers."Only I have the contacts to do this for you because I was a candidate for magistrate in this area. I have lots of power."Networking for fun and profit.