- international arrest warrant issues on Saturday against him for sex trafficking
- Salvadoran police raided his home in May and turned up multiple IDs and passports using the names Jorge Torres Puello and an alias, Jorge Torres Orellana -- with photos of him
- they arrested his wife in that raid and her trial is pending
- in a phone interview with CNN, he acknowledged he is the man wanted by Salvadoran police
- he denies the charges against him
So he knew about the sex ring, but he wasn't involved. Got it.
According to the warrant, Torres Puello is accused of running an international sex trafficking ring that lured women and girls from the Caribbean and Central America into prostitution with offers of modeling jobs. A wanted poster released by Interpol, the international police organization, includes crimes against children as one of the offenses that Torres Puello is being sought for.
"I never did anything," Torres Puello said Sunday. "I started helping a Dominican pastor helping a lot of people who were stranded to get back to their home countries. We once gave some Nicaraguan and Costa Rican women some money to return home and instead they went to the authorities and put in a complaint against us. I never had anybody against their will."
Torres Puello also denied Salvadoran allegations that he ran a brothel out of his home with wife Ana Josefa Ramirez Orellana, who remains jailed pending trial, according to Salvadoran police.
"I want to clear the Salvador matter up and I am hiring a lawyer to do that," he said. "I know I am innocent and I want to clear my past."
His mother, Soledad Puello, told CNN Sunday that she first heard of the Salvadoran accusations when her son called to tell her of his wife's arrest. She said her son told her he had known about the sex ring, but wasn't involved in it.
Soledad Puello led CNN to believe that her son remained in the Dominican Republic, but she would not say where.
- he's wanted in the US for smuggling people between Canada and the US, which he denies
- he has spent 18 months in Canadian jail pending an extradition request by US authorities
- he served a year in jail in 1998 for handling drug trafficking money
- he was jailed again in 2001/2 for violating parole
- he denies the drug charge
Both his mother and Torres Puello say he served briefly in the U.S. Army in a military intelligence unit, and Torres Puello said he also worked undercover with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
A family photo shows Torres Puello in a military uniform alongside a truck with the words "U.S. Military" printed across the bumper.
CNN was unable to reach government officials to confirm his claims of working with the military, the DEA and Homeland Security.
Wow, he sounds a lot like David Coleman Headley.
Oh so CNN was unable to reach government officials to confirm his claims? Hahahahahah, good one. Yes we all know how hard it must be for CNN to reach government officials. Maybe they should check in CNN's corporate offices for some government officials.
This whole thing is one big show, for what purpose I'm not sure yet though I have my suspicions.
Torres Puello's statements regarding the charges against him could not be immediately verified. But on Sunday, four men showed up at his mother's home while CNN reporters were present. [what a coincidence! - ed.]
The men said they were from the U.S. Embassy and looking for Torres Puello. One of the men told Soledad Puello that her son has three outstanding arrest warrants -- two in the United States and one in El Salvador. He did not specify the charges. One of the men was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "U.S. Marshals Service, Fugitive Task Force."
Yes, it's all very dramatic. The... um.... the embassy employees from the "fugitive task force" -- well one made sure that the camera got his t-shirt badge on camera before he skulked off with brooding drama, waiting to capture Puello.
But if they didn't want to talk to CNN, did they not notice the CNN truck surely parked outside the house? Or is it even a house? It doesn't look like a house inside.
One of the ten Americans held, Jim Allen, is distancing himself from Puello.
Hiram Sasser, attorney with Liberty Legal of Plano, Texas, sought to distance his client, Jim Allen, from Torres Puello. He stated in an e-mail to CNN: "No attorney has ever been authorized to represent Jim Allen other than our team, which includes Mr. Lissade. The only spokesperson for the Allen family has been me and our team."
This legal team, for Jim Allen, has even written to Hillary Clinton:
Another of Allen's U.S. defense team, Reginald Brown, said he, Sasser and other U.S. attorneys were only hired to represent Allen on Super Bowl Sunday -- nine days after the Americans were arrested.
In a February 9 letter from Brown to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brown stated: "It's our understanding from press reports ... that all 10 Americans were represented by a single Haitian attorney. ... We're not able to confirm if that counsel was independently chosen by Jim [Allen]."
Until February 7, Torres Puello said he had been appointed legal adviser to all 10 Americans and Haitian attorney Edwin Coq said he was handling the case in Port-au-Prince on behalf of all 10. Coq, who was the attorney Brown referred to in his letter to Clinton, says he resigned on February 6 over a dispute about payments. Torres Puello said he had fired Coq.
Torres Puello turned up at court Monday, February 8, saying he was there to organize legal representation for all 10 Americans after Coq left the case.
That's a bit confusing. Quick timeline based on this info:
- 1/29 - Americans arrested
- 2/1 - Puello is quoted in news reports as their attorney
- 2/6 - Coq resigns or is fired
- 2/7 - Puello is representing all 10 Americans
- 2/7 - Allen hires his own lawyers
- 2/8 - Puello appears in court representing all 10 Americans
- 2/9 - Allen's attorney writes to Hillary Clinton
Now this is very interesting. Who sent the $40,000? Puello's stepfather has the receipt, which is a hand written note on what appears to be an Abraham Lincoln hotel memo pad, and he says the families wired the money, but the families say they did not pay money to Puello. CNN doesn't tell us who they paid the money to, however.
Torres Puello said he read about the case and decided to offer his services for free. However, Torres Puello's stepfather, Franco Ceminara, said the arrested Americans' families had already wired more than $40,000 to his stepson. A receipt provided by Torres Puello's family to CNN showed the Haitian lawyers are charging $40,000 to represent the Americans. The receipt, for an advance payment of $10,000, was signed by Aviol Fleurant, one of the Americans' Port-au-Prince-based defense team that also includes Lissade.
Family and church representatives in Idaho, where most of the 10 Americans are from, told CNN earlier in the week that they had not paid money to the man they know as Jorge Puello.
Regarding the American missionaries, Torres Puello said: "Prior to this earthquake I never knew those people [the Americans]. When I read about their case I just decided to help them. I'm in the real estate business and was working with a team of lawyers."
Hoo boy what a mess. We don't know who Jorge Puello is, but he is known to the authorities. He may be well-known to the authorities.
Some other details have also turned up, including a possible explanation for how Puello came to "offer his services."
From the WSJ, on Puello's connection to Jewish concerns:
Isaac Rudman, the president of the Israelite Center of the Dominican Republic, said he once met Mr. Puello two or three years back. At the time, Mr. Puello introduced himself as Jorge Torres, and had a letter of introduction from a synagogue in Canada, Mr. Rudman said. Mr. Rudman said he heard over the years that Mr. Puello had grandiose plans to build a hospital and a Jewish city close to Santo Domingo's airport, but nothing came from these plans. Mr. Rudman's impression from his one meeting with Mr. Puello was that he was very "conflictive," he said. "His attitude was 'the Messiah has arrived'" said Mr. Rudman.Meanwhile, the other families continue to back away from Puello just as fast as they can:
Lawyers for five of the jailed Americans say their clients were never represented by Mr. Puello. Jim Allen, a construction worker from Amarillo, Texas, only heard of the "aid trip" 48 hours before departure, according to one of his attorneys in the United States. That attorney, Reginald Brown of the law firm WilmerHale, said that Mr. Allen "was never represented by or associated with" Mr. Puello.
Caleb Stegall, a Kansas-based attorney for another four of the detained Americans, said that Mr. Puello "does not represent them, never has, and is no longer part of the case, if he ever was." Mr. Stegall said he represents Paul Thompson, his son Silas Thompson, Steve McMullin, and Drew Culberth. The elder Mr. Thompson is a brother-in-law of Mr. Culberth and a cousin of Mr. Allen.
And there are some other connections between Silsby and people in the Dominican Republic:
Ms. Silsby hoped to build an orphanage for as many as 200 children in Magante, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. To that end, she incorporated New Life in the Dominican Republic in January through Jose Altagracia Ovando.
New Life Children's Refuge began the process of buying land in Magante. One of Ms. Silsby's colleagues in the venture – former dentist Rob Chenvert, now a realtor in the Dominican Republic who worked with Ms. Silsby to find land and buildings for the planned orphanage – said on Friday that the group had no contact with Mr. Puello until after the arrest.
It was unclear who originally hired Mr. Puello. Shortly after the group's arrest, Drew Ham, one of the pastors at Central Valley Baptist Church, said that Mr. Puello had contacted the group's families after the arrest and offered his services. Mr. Ham said he did a search for Mr. Puello on Google, and that Mr. Puello was later hired.
Let's review the last paragraph of the CNN story:
Regarding the American missionaries, Torres Puello said: "Prior to this earthquake I never knew those people [the Americans]. When I read about their case I just decided to help them. I'm in the real estate business and was working with a team of lawyers."So Silsby's partner, Rob Chenvert, is in real estate in the Dominican Republic, and Puello is in real estate in the Dominican Republic (we think, but who knows...), and somehow they hooked up.
That seems very plausible actually.
Bonus interesting background info on CNN at this old post. The link to the source is defunct, but I had captured the relevant bits of people discussing obviously doctored pictures from the Georgian conflict. The pictures showed various people posing as dead and/or mourning. The trouble was the dead guy kept moving around to different spots, which someone noticed. You know, it's rude to notice stuff like that....
From the comment thread (of the broken link which had the doctored pics, sorry this is back in September 2008 so it's long gone):
That's a little frame for you.