Former federal informant sentenced to life in prison for role in assassination of Haiti’s president
Miami Herald February 9, 2024
(Tribune News Service) — A former U.S. government informant was sentenced Friday to life in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to kill Haiti’s president and admitting that he attended strategic meetings before the assassination in 2021.
Joseph Vincent, 58, a Haitian American, became the fourth of 11 defendants to be sentenced to life in the Miami federal case for his supporting role in the murder plot spanning South Florida, Haiti and Colombia. Vincent is cooperating with federal prosecutors by providing evidence of the meetings, logistics and actions of some of the other co-defendants who still face trial.
Vincent spoke few words during the brief sentencing hearing, only saying to U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez: “Please excuse me for what I have done.”
At his plea hearing in December, Vincent admitted in a statement filed with his plea agreement that he met with a group of co-conspirators in Haiti on the eve of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. The factual statement was signed by Vincent, his attorney, Kenneth Swartz, and prosecutors. The statement said he wore a U.S. State Department pin to make himself look official to his Haitian counterparts. He also participated in a plan to stir up protests against Haiti’s leader and use them as a cover to remove Moïse by force using weapons.
The statement also says he joined other co-conspirators in a vehicle that drove to the president’s home outside Port-au-Prince when a group of Colombian commandos killed him during the nighttime ambush.
Vincent pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support in the assassination, providing that support, and conspiring to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States.
At the plea hearing, federal prosecutor Frank Russo highlighted Vincent’s role in the murder conspiracy: “Vincent provided advice to his co-conspirators about the Haitian political landscape, attended meetings with important Haitian political and community leaders, and frequently wore a U.S. State Department pin, which had the effect of leading others to believe that he was employed by the U.S. State Department.”
Vincent, a former informant with the Drug Enforcement Administration, is expected to be a key cooperating witness against other indicted co-conspirators, including fellow Haitian American James Solages. Solages is accused of collaborating with CTU Security, a Doral-based company owned and operated by Antonio Intriago, a defendant in the case who met with Solages in South Florida and in Haiti before Moïse’s assassination.
Solages also drove the vehicle with top Colombian commandos, Vincent and others to the president’s home for the deadly attack, court records show. And Solages yelled it was a “DEA operation” as the assault was unfolding that night, a claim that authorities have denied.
Solages has pleaded not guilty to the murder conspiracy charges.
Vincent is also expected to provide inside information on Christian Sanon, a Haitian physician and pastor who was initially proposed as the successor to Moïse before the plotters abandoned him in June 2021 in favor of a member of the Haitian Supreme Court. Sanon, 65, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges accusing him of smuggling ballistic vests to the Colombian commandos in Haiti and to carry out a “military expedition” against a foreign country.
In addition to Vincent, four other defendants have admitted to their supporting roles in the slaying of Haiti’s president.
A sixth defendant, Frederick Bergmann, 65, of Tampa, is charged with the same offenses as Sanon. But in a deal with prosecutors, Bergmann pleaded guilty Friday to two conspiracy counts: backing a “military expedition against a friendly nation” and violating U.S. export laws by smuggling bullet-proof vests to the Colombians in Haiti. Three related counts will be dismissed as part of his cooperation agreement with prosecutors. Bergmann, an accountant represented by attorney Henry Bell, faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing in April.
Others connected to the assassination
In October, former Haitiian Sen. Joseph Joël John pleaded guilty to the murder conspiracy and related charges in the killing of Haiti’s leader and in December was sentenced to life in prison. He’s also cooperating with prosecutors.
John’s goal was to become the prime minister under Moïse’s successor following the leader’s removal from office, according to court records.
John, 52, acknowledged to FBI agents that he had met with some co-conspirators just before they “embarked on the mission to kill President Moïse” at his suburban home, according to court records. John admitted that he helped obtain rental vehicles, made introductions to Haitian gang members and tried to get firearms for the co-conspirators’ operation targeting the president, according to his statement filed with his plea agreement.
John attended meetings in South Florida and Haiti with the main suspects and tried to acquire weapons and ammunition for them, according to the statement and other court records. He’s believed to have been a link between the various groups. On the night of the killing, he was in communication with several suspects.
In addition, retired Colombian army officer Germán Alejandro Rivera Garcia, aka “Colonel Mike,” 45, admitted that he met with several co-conspirators from Haiti and South Florida before leading a group of former Colombian soldiers to the Haitian president’s home to kill him. In October, Rivera was sentenced to life in prison, but he is hoping to get his sentence reduced with cooperation.
A former Colombian soldier, Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, 45, who was at the president’s home on the night of the slaying, also pleaded guilty in December to the main murder conspiracy charge and faces up to life in prison.
Haitian businessman Rodolphe Jaar, 51, admitted to providing weapons, lodging and money in the conspiracy to assassinate Haiti’s president. A dual Haitian and Chilean citizen, Jaar was sentenced in June to life in prison but is hoping to get his prison term decreased with cooperation. He had previously been convicted of drug trafficking in the United States.
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