Nov. 7 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Justice is offering $3 million in rewards for information that leads to the capture of three Haitian nationals charged with the kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens.
In 2021, 17 missionaries, including 16 Americans and one Canadian, were kidnapped from a bus by the 400 Mawozo gang. They were then held for ransom, some for 61 days before escaping capture.
The Justice Department is seeking information on three Haitian nationals: 29-year-old Lanmo Sanjou (aka Joseph Wilson); Jermain “Gaspiyay” Stephenson, believed to be in his late 20s; and Vitel’homme Innocent, 36. Stephenson and Sanjou are current leaders of the 400 Mawozo gang and Innocent is the leader of the Kraze Barye gang.
Innocent was believed to be working with the 400 Mawozo gang, which took responsibility for kidnapping the missionaries. All three are charged with armed kidnapping, conspiracy to commit hostage taking and hostage taking.
“When a U.S. citizen is kidnapped abroad, the Justice Department will bring to bear the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to ensure their safe return home and to hold accountable those responsible,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “As these charges demonstrate, we are committed to working alongside our interagency and international partners to disrupt these kidnapping-for-ransom schemes that endanger the lives of American citizens and that fuel the violent gangs harming the Haitian people.”
The department is also charging four more Haitian nationals, three of which are gang leaders responsible for two other kidnapping incidents. Additional charges were filed against two alleged leaders of the 400 Mawozo gang, who were previously charged in the 2021 kidnapping: Joly “Yonyon Germine, 30, and Jean “Zo” Pelice, 27. Germine was alleged to have coordinated the kidnapping from inside a Haitian prison.
“We stand with the people of Haiti, whose country has been ravaged by violent gangs impacting every facet of society,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “We are committed to using all tools available to prosecute these gangs in order to disrupt their unlawful activities in Haiti and bring justice for our victims.”
There were five children among the 17 people kidnapped, including one who was just 8 months old.