Published: February 11, 2010
Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
(February 6, 2010)When the judge presiding over the Haitian case learned on Thursday of the investigation in
The inquiries are the latest twist in a politically charged case that is unfolding in the middle of an earthquake disaster zone. A lawyer for the group has already been dismissed after being accused of trying to offer bribes to get the 10 Americans out of jail.
The adviser, Jorge Puello, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he had not engaged in any illegal activity in
“There’s a Colombian drug dealer who was arrested with 25 IDs, and one of them had my name,” he said, not elaborating.
“Bring the proof,” he said when pressed about the child-trafficking accusations in the brief interview, which ended when he said he was entering an elevator. Reached later, he became angry and said he had broken no laws.
The 10 Americans have been imprisoned since Jan. 29 in the back of the same police station used by President René Préval as the seat of
Mr. Puello has been acting as a spokesman and legal adviser in the
The head of the Salvadoran border police, Commissioner Jorge Callejas, said in a telephone interview that he was investigating accusations that a man with a Dominican passport that identified him as Jorge Anibal Torres Puello led a human trafficking ring that recruited Dominican women and under-age Nicaraguan girls by offering them jobs and then putting them to work as prostitutes in El Salvador.
Mr. Puello said he did not even have a passport. When Mr. Callejas was shown a photograph taken in Haiti of Mr. Puello, Mr. Callejas said he thought it showed the man he was seeking. He said he would try to arrest Mr. Puello on suspicion of luring women into prostitution and taking explicit photographs of them that were then posted on Internet sites. “It’s him, the same beard and face,” Mr. Callejas said in an interview on Thursday. “It has to be him.”
Judge Saint-Vil also said he thought that the photo of the trafficking suspect in a Salvadoran police file appeared to be the same man he had met in court. He said he intended to begin his own investigation into whether a trafficking suspect had been working with the Americans detained in
“I was skeptical of him because he arrived with four bodyguards, and I have never seen that from a lawyer,” the judge said in an interview. “I plan to get to the bottom of this right away.”
The judge said he would request assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to look into Mr. Puello’s background. A spokesman for the department said American officials were playing a supporting role in the investigation surrounding the Americans, providing “investigative support as requested.”
An Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for someone named Jorge Anibal Torres Puello, according to the police and public documents.
There were questions about whether Mr. Puello, the adviser, who said the
Mr. Puello said he had a law license and was part of a 45-member law firm. But his office in
Mr. Puello said in the interview that he had been representing the Americans free of charge because he was a religious man who commiserated with their situation. “I’m president of the Sephardic Jewish community in the
But other lawyers for the detainees said that the families had wired Mr. Puello $12,000 to pay for the Americans’ transportation out of
One lawyer for the families said that Mr. Puello had told him that he was licensed to practice law in
Mr. Puello said that he had been born in
The report said the police had found documents connected to the Sephardic Jewish community in a house in
Blake Schmidt contributed reporting from