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February 15, 2023Miami, FL, United StatesOrganized Crime

4 Florida men arrested in plot to kill Haitian president

Grand jury returns indictment against 11

MIAMI — U.S. federal law enforcement arrested two U.S. citizens and a legal permanent resident living in South Florida and one U.S. citizen living in Tampa on Feb. 14 on charges relating to their participation in the events leading to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. Following the arrests, a South Florida grand jury returned a third superseding indictment charging these four individuals and seven others who were previously arrested and charged in the United States for their alleged roles in the plot. The case is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.

The four men arrested in Florida today are Arcangel Pretel Ortiz, 50, a Colombian national and U.S. permanent resident of Miami; Antonio Intriago 59, a Venezuelan American of Miami; Walter Veintemilla, 54, of Weston; and Frederick Bergmann, 64, of Tampa.

They made their initial federal court appearances Feb. 15 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lauren Louis in Miami.

“Today, individuals who we allege participated in the planning, financing, and orchestration of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse will face justice in an American courtroom,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The court documents unsealed today outline an alleged plan by the defendants, some of whom were operating within the United States, to remove President Moise from office by either killing or kidnapping him in order to replace him with a candidate who would serve their political goals and financial interests. The Justice Department will not tolerate individuals plotting violent attacks from U.S. soil that undermine the rule of law abroad.”

“Today’s arrests show the FBI’s commitment to vigorously pursue the individuals involved in the brazen plot to kidnap or kill the former Haitian president,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “As demonstrated by this case, the men and women of the FBI will work tirelessly across borders and oceans to uphold the rule of law. The FBI will not tolerate these acts of violence perpetrated abroad against our international partners.”

“Today marks the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation into the assassination of President Moïse. Homeland Security Investigations special agents leveraged their authority to further investigative efforts with whole-of-government partners to bring justice to the Moïse family and people of Haiti,” said Deputy Secretary John K. Tien of the Department of Homeland Security. “The Department of Homeland Security is deeply committed to combating transnational organized crime. To those engaged in illicit activities, let today stand as a reminder that we remain relentless and vigilant in holding you accountable and dismantling your unlawful operations.”

With today’s arrests, 11 people now face charges in the Southern District of Florida in connection with the assassination. The third superseding indictment charges Ortiz, Intriago, and Veintemilla as well as James Solages, 37, Joseph Vincent, 57, and German Alejandro Rivera Garcia, 44, who were transferred into U.S. custody in January; Mario Antonio Palacios, 43, arrested in January 2022; Rodolphe Jaar, 49, arrested in January 2022 ; and Joseph Joel John, 51, arrested in May 2022 . These defendants — Ortiz, Intriago, Veintemilla, Solages, Vincent, Rivera, Palacios, Jaar and John — are charged with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a conspiracy to kidnap or kill outside the United States, resulting in death; providing material support and resources to a conspiracy to kidnap or kill outside the United States, resulting in death; and conspiracy to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States.

The superseding indictment additionally charges Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 64, and Bergmann with conspiracy to commit export violations; submitting false and misleading export information; and smuggling ballistic vests from the United States to Haiti. As with Solages, Vincent and Rivera, Sanon was transferred from Haitian custody into U.S. custody last month.

“A central tenet of every democracy in the world is that those who want to change their government, must do so peacefully — through ballots, not bullets. These defendants thought they could secure immunity for their crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “We will now deliver justice in a U.S. courtroom.”

“Homeland Security Investigations leveraged its expertise in investigating transnational crime to identify the international network of co-conspirators who allegedly sought to overthrow the Haitian government through violence,” said Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “HSI continues to work with domestic and international law enforcement partners to investigate transnational criminal organizations that pose a significant threat to global security.”

“Haiti is no stranger to hardship and suffering. While most human beings would consider events that destroy hundreds of thousands of lives, homes, schools and infrastructure tragedies, there are others who consider them opportunities to gain money and power,” said U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. “When greed and ambition lead to violations of U.S. law, we will prosecute.”

According to court documents, from at least February to July 2021, South Florida served as a central location for planning and financing the plot to oust Moïse from power and replace him with someone who would serve the coconspirators’ political goals and financial interests.

Ortiz and Intriago are principals of Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy and Counter Terrorist Unit Security (collectively, CTU), and Veintemilla is a principal of Worldwide Capital Lending Group. CTU and Worldwide Capital Lending Group are South Florida companies. According to charging documents, Bergmann, who lived in Tampa, had ties to Sanon, a dual Haitian American citizen who held political aspirations in Haiti.

As alleged, in April 2021, Ortiz, Intriago, John, Solages and Sanon met in South Florida and agreed to a plan: Ortiz and Intriago — through CTU — would support ousting Haitian President Moïse and replacing him with Sanon. In exchange, Sanon would become President and award lucrative contracts to CTU for infrastructure projects in Haiti, the provision of security forces, and the provision of military type equipment to a Sanon-led Haitian government.

It is alleged that in late April 2021, Veintemilla and his company, Worldwide Capital Lending Group, agreed to help finance the coup d’état, extending a $175,000 line of credit to CTU and sending money to co-conspirators in Haiti to purchase ammunition. Veintemilla expected to reap significant financial benefits through Worldwide Capital Lending Group after Moïse’s replacement, as did Ortiz and Intriago through CTU.

Further planning and spending continued in South Florida from April to June 2021, according to the charging documents. For example, Ortiz and Intriago, as principals of CTU, retained a group of about 20 Colombian nationals with military training (including Rivera and Palacios) to provide security to Sanon. Bergmann became a supporter and investor who helped fund the Colombians’ lodging in Haiti and worked with Sanon and Intriago to ship 20 CTU-branded ballistic vests from South Florida to Haiti by falsifying the required export documentation.

By June 2021, the plan evolved as Ortiz, Intriago, Veintemilla and others apparently realized that Sanon had neither the constitutional qualifications nor the popular support of the Haitian people to become president. They shifted their support from Sanon to a former Haitian Supreme Court judge. This new candidate contracted with CTU and Worldwide Capital Lending Group to serve the companies’ financial interests upon becoming President.

It is also alleged that by June 2021, the plot progressed from forcibly removing Moïse from power to assassinating him. In particular, the conspiracy began to focus on assassination after an unsuccessful effort to seize Moïse on a return trip to Haiti and spirit him away by airplane to a location outside the country.

According to the charging documents, Ortiz and Intriago managed and directed other members of the conspiracy — including Solages, a CTU representative in Haiti who coordinated with Vincent and Sanon, and the Colombian nationals who participated in the assassination through Rivera or another Colombian leader in Haiti who was killed while attempting to leave the scene of the assassination. It is alleged that John, a former Haitian Senator, and Jaar both helped secure weapons and provided other support.

On July 6, 2021, co-conspirators met at a house near Moïse’s residence, where firearms and equipment were distributed, and it was announced that the mission was to kill Moïse. On July 7, 2021, several individuals, some of whom were wearing CTU-branded ballistic vests, arrived outside Moïse’s residence. They entered the president’s home and killed him.

If convicted, Ortiz, Intriago, Veintemilla, Solages, Vincent, Garcia, Palacios, Jaar and John face up to life in prison. Bergmann and Sanon face up to 20 years if convicted. A federal district court judge will determine their sentences after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida, acting Special Agent in Charge Maged Behnam of the FBI Miami Field Office, and acting Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Buckley of HSI Miami made the announcement.

The FBI and HSI investigated these cases, with help from the U.S. Department of State; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Office of Export Enforcement; and the Department of Defense’s Criminal Investigative Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Goldbarg and Monica Castro for the Southern District of Florida, Trial Attorneys Frank Russo and Jessica Fender of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and Emma Ellenrieder of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Paster is handling asset forfeiture. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.