US fugitive, gang member in custody after arrests in Haiti

Robert S. Hays

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Lissner Mathieu, 55, (still left) a naturalized U.S. citizen who goes by the nickname “Ti-Nwa,” was flown out of Port-au-Prince Friday, March 5, 2021 by U.S. federal agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration onboard a U.S. plane. He was joined by Peterson “Ti Peter Vilaj” Benjamin (proper), a Haitian countrywide and suspected gang leader. The two adult men ended up arrested previously in the week by Haiti Nationwide Police and transferred.

A convicted drug trafficker who skipped out on his probation and a suspected gang member thought to be component of a prison business behind an alarming spike in kidnappings, are the two in U.S. custody after being flown out of Haiti Friday by federal brokers.

Lissner Mathieu and Peterson Benjamin were arrested previously this week by Haiti National Police. Mathieu, 55, pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to import at least 5 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. He is accused of violating the conditions of his 10-yr probation when he fled to Haiti in 2008. Benjamin is facing kidnapping charges.

Mathieu, a U.S. citizen, is recognised by the nickname, “Ti-Nwa,” or Very little Black, and has also utilised the previous title Joseph on his different Haitian ID cards. Amongst the paperwork confiscated by police during his arrest: an official Countrywide Palace badge furnishing accessibility to the presidential grounds and workplaces one more determining him as the operator of an agriculture company and two official national identification cards with distinct quantities. The countrywide IDs double as voting playing cards.

Benjamin, who also goes by the identify “Ti Peter Vilaj,” is a Haitian nationwide, and the 3rd best gang leader in the Village de Dieu, or Village of God, gang, Haiti Nationwide Law enforcement spokesman Garry Desrosiers claimed.

Desrosiers, who confirmed the transfer of the two men and women in excess of to the Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation, explained Benjamin is implicated in about a dozen kidnapping scenarios, two of which included U.S. citizens. The gang is one of numerous main prison teams powering the rise in for-ransom kidnappings in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan region.

The arrests are regarded a sizeable bust for U.S. legislation enforcement officers, who have been overcome responding to the uptick in kidnappings, a number of of which have involved U.S. citizens. Victims have been pressured to shell out substantial sums of money to protected their launch. The arrests could also possibly assist identify backlinks concerning the government officials and personal men and women related with the gangs.

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Federal brokers with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Drug Enforcement Administration arrived in Haiti Friday, March 5, 2021 to fly out two people today. Lissner Mathieu, 55, in the light-weight eco-friendly shirt, is a U.S. fugitive recognised as “Ti-Nwa.” Following to him, in a a dark eco-friendly shirt, is Peterson “Ti Peter Vilaj” Benjamin (ideal), a Haitian countrywide. Each adult men had been arrested previously in the week by Haiti Nationwide Police.

Past 12 months, the U.S. Point out Office elevated its Haiti journey advisory to its maximum chance classification, warning People not to travel to the troubled Caribbean nation, adhering to the dramatic increase in kidnappings, as effectively as violent crimes like carjackings and robberies, carried out primarily by armed gangs. The conclusion arrived after the abductions of various U.S. citizens, including two Haitian-American previous active obligation U.S. armed service veterans. The two adult men had been equally taken to Village de Dieu, exactly where they were held captive at gunpoint.

Village de Dieu, which is now controlled by a gang chief recognised as “Izo,” was formerly commanded by Arnel Joseph, a infamous gang leader who was killed last week by Haiti law enforcement just after he and more than 400 other prisoners escaped from the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison on the outskirts of the capital.

Haitian officers this 7 days announced a sequence of new measures they say are aimed at decreasing kidnappings, which have elevated by 200% around the previous yr, in accordance to the United Nations. They consist of a new emergency telephone selection to call the police in the celebration of kidnapping, strengthened police existence around the funds, and a ban on all tinted home windows on private vehicles. President Jovenel Moïse also announced the development of an anti-kidnapping unit to improve yet another, identical power that currently exists within the judicial police.

According to U.S. court files, Mathieu commenced arranging shipments of cocaine in between Haiti and Port Richmond, New York, in 2001 for a charge of $3,000 per kilogram for the drug firm he was functioning for. Quickly, he resolved to branch out on his very own. He afterwards admitted in court to importing over 500 kilograms of cocaine between 2001 and 2003, laundering the proceeds to Haiti, exactly where his companies include things like an ice-generating business.

In 2008, Mathieu was granted permission by his supervising probation officer to vacation to Haiti to tend to personalized matters. But as an alternative of returning back again to the U.S., he stayed in Haiti, where by he has been living ever due to the fact. A U.S. probation officer later asked for that a warrant be issued for Mathieu’s arrest, and that his supervised launch be revoked.

Miami Herald Team Writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.

Profile Image of Jacqueline Charles

Jacqueline Charles has described on Haiti and the English-talking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for about a ten years. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she was awarded a 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize — the most prestigious award for coverage of the Americas.

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