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Enforcement and Removal
03/19/2010

Joint international manhunt leads to arrest of fugitive wanted in 3 countries

WASHINGTON - An international manhunt has ended with the capture of Jorge Torres-Puello aka Jorge Torres Orellana. After a coordinated effort between the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and multiple law enforcement agencies in the United States and overseas, Torres-Puello was located in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and arrested without incident by local authorities there Thursday at 8 p.m.

Torres-Puello is wanted in El Salvador for crimes against children, sexual exploitation of minors for pornography and prostitution, organized crime and human trafficking. In the United States, he is wanted in Vermont on alien smuggling offenses and in Philadelphia for probation violations for fraud. He is also wanted in Canada. Before and after his previous arrests in the United States and Canada, Torres-Puello assumed several fraudulent identities and was known by several aliases.

"The location and arrest of this fugitive, wanted by three countries on some of the most egregious charges that ICE investigates, is an example of top-notch cooperation among law enforcement agencies in all these countries and our colleagues at INTERPOL," said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "Hiding behind fake names or using phony identifications and passports will not protect those who prey on the most vulnerable in our societies. Together we will find you and bring you to justice."

"The capture of Jorge Torres-Puello is an exceptional example of the effective cooperation between law enforcement agencies across numerous borders and jurisdictions," said Director John F. Clark of the United States Marshals Service. "When we all come together for a common purpose, the world becomes a very small place for a fugitive to hide. I offer my sincere thanks to our many international and domestic partners who played a part in this arrest."

"This is a great example of how we work with our law enforcement partners to pursue individuals who have fled to international jurisdictions after their involvement in criminal activity and bring them to justice," said INTERPOL Washington Director Timothy Williams.

Torres-Puello's downfall started just after Haitian authorities detained 10 U.S. missionaries and held them on kidnapping and abduction charges. Shortly after their arrest, Torres-Puello contacted their church in Idaho and said he was a legal authority on Haitian and Dominican law. He obtained monetary retainer from the families of the missionaries and began representing himself to the Haitian court and international media as the attorney/spokesman for the detained Americans.

In February, law enforcement authorities in El Salvador were notified the individual acting as the legal advisor to the U.S. missionaries bore a strong resemblance to Jorge Torres Orellana, the man wanted by El Salvadorian authorities. Authorities in El Salvador requested the assistance of INTERPOL, and an INTERPOL Red Notice was issued to law enforcement agencies worldwide.

INTERPOL Washington, having previously been in communication with authorities in El Salvador, immediately confirmed Jorge Torres Orellana was in fact a fugitive from justice also wanted in Canada and the United States. INTERPOL Washington served as the intermediary in coordinating efforts between multiple agencies in the United States and overseas, resulting in the apprehension of Torres-Puello.

ICE and the USMS International Investigations Branch spearheaded the two-month long joint investigation along with law enforcement officials in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Canada and El Salvador.

Continued efforts and participation from the Direccion Nacional de Control de Drogas in the Dominican Republic along with the assistance of INTERPOL Santo Domingo, D.R., proved to be essential assets in the investigation.

A combined effort by the agencies mentioned above, along with the indispensable participation of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs; U.S. Department of State; U.S. Attorney Offices in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the District of Vermont; Dominican Republic Office of the Attorney General; and the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Washington, D.C. culminated in this arrest.