Former Haitian senator pleads guilty in Miami to conspiring in presidential assassination
Miami Herald October 10, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — A former Haitian senator pleaded guilty Tuesday in Miami federal court to conspiring with others in Haiti and South Florida to kill his country’s president, including attending a key meeting with Colombian commandos on July 6, 2021 — the day before authorities say they assassinated Jovenel Moïse.
The former senator, Joseph Joel John, who had been detained in Jamaica before being brought to Miami last year, 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 outside Port-au-Prince, according to court records.
John, 52, also admitted that he helped obtain vehicles and tried to get firearms for the co-conspirators’ operation targeting Haiti’s leader, a criminal affidavit says. Joseph’s goal was to become the prime minister under Moïse’s successor following the leader’s removal from office.
As part of his plea agreement, John pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to kill Haiti’s president, providing that support, and conspiring to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States. John is the third defendant out of 11 charged in the Haiti assassination case with either conspiring to assassinate Moïse or with playing a supporting role in an FBI-led case prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Florida.
The two other defendants who previously pleaded guilty to the murder conspiracy are:
Retired Colombian army officer Germán Alejandro Rivera Garcia, aka “Colonel Mike,” 45, admitted last month 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. Rivera faces up to life in prison at his sentencing later this month.
Also, Haitian business man 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. Previously, he was also convicted of drug trafficking in the United States.
John, who also goes by the name John Joël Joseph, was transferred in May 2022 to Miami from Jamaica, where he had been jailed on an immigration violation. Joseph served in the Haitian Senate from 2009-15 and worked as a political and security consultant.
According to an exhaustive Haitian police investigative report first obtained by the Miami Herald, John rented five vehicles for the deadly mission five weeks before the murder plot was carried out. He was joined by a powerful gang leader, Vitelhomme Innocent, and a former rebel leader known as “the Torturer,” Miradieu Faustin.
John also attended meetings in South Florida and Haiti with key suspects and tried to acquire weapons and ammunition for them, according to a criminal affidavit and other court records. He’s believed to have been an interlocutor between the various groups. On the night of the killing, he was in communication with several main suspects.
When Rivera, the retired Colombian army officer who led the commandos, pleaded guilty last month, he signed a factual statement that provided fresh details of meetings among the co-conspirators in Haiti and South Florida that led to the shocking assassination of Moïse.
According to the factual statement, Rivera began meeting in person in Haiti and by video conference in South Florida with the co-conspirators in February 2021. At various meetings, “the conspirators discussed proposed methods for carrying out the operation and the need to acquire weapons to facilitate the operation,” the statement says.
The meetings held in South Florida were attended by several co-conspirators charged in the assassination case, including Arcangel Pretel Ortiz, an FBI informant who worked for a Miami-area security firm. He allegedly helped recruit some of the Colombian commandos and directed Rivera to follow the instructions of another co-conspirator regarding the plot to assassinate Haiti’s leader.
Others present at the South Florida meetings were: Antonio Intriago, the head of the security firm, Counter Terrorist Unit; Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian American physician who aspired to replace Moïse as president; Walter Veintemilla, a South Florida businessman who helped finance the operation; and James Solages, a Haitian American who got a job with Intriago’s security firm.
Rivera also attended operational meetings in Haiti with Intriago, Solages, Sanon, Jaar and John, the ex-senator, along with Joseph Vincent, a Haitian American who worked as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and a Colombian commando, Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios.
“Rivera was present at meetings where the assassination of President Moise was discussed,” according to the factual statement filed with his plea agreement. “One such meeting, which was attended by Rivera, Solages, John and Vincent, among others, occurred approximately two weeks prior to the assassination.”
But by then, however, Sanon was no longer seen as a viable replacement for Moïse and a former Supreme Court justice, Windelle Coq Thélot, entered the picture as a stronger candidate for the presidency. Coq has not been charged in the U.S. investigation.
©2023 Miami Herald.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.