Haiti gang leader wanted in kidnapping of American citizens is extradited to US


A Haitian gang leader charged with kidnapping three U.S citizens at gunpoint in two separate incidents in the volatile Caribbean country has been extradited to the United States, Haiti police said.

Jhon Peter Fleronvil was extradited on Monday, according to Haiti National Police, which posted photographs of him in handcuffs on its social media pages. Fleronvil had been in custody since September 11, 2022, when he was arrested in the northeastern Haitian city of Fort-Liberté while attempting to travel to the neighboring Dominican Republic by crossing the Ouanaminthe-Dajabón border.

An FBI arrest warrant and affidavit Fleronvil, whose first name is spelled “John” in U.S. court documents, was filed in the District of Colombia federal court on Nov. 7. There is no indication in the court files, however, of his appearance yet in federal court and a spokesperson for the FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

Fleronvil is a member of the brutal rural gang Kokorat san Ras. The armed group was recently identified in a United Nations sanctions report on Haiti, and operates in the country’s rice growing Artibonite Valley between Port-au-Prince to the south and the city of Port-de-Paix to the northwest.

The gang has been accused of committing acts of extreme violence that have forced people to abandon their homes and farmland as members carry out armed robberies, assassinations, rapes and kidnappings for ransom. The gang is known to torture victims and kill them when ransoms are not paid, the U.N. reported. It’s among two of the most vicious gangs operating in the rural valley, which has become a high-risk area for anyone who ventures there, including police, who routinely engage in gun battles and are subject to armed attacks.

U.S. authorities say in July of 2022 during one such gun battle with police, two U.S. citizens, a married couple visiting family in Port-de-Paix, was abducted by armed gang members and later held hostage by Fleronvil and another leader of his gang, Jean Renald Dolcin, until a $10,500 ransom was paid. The next day a third U.S. citizen was taken captive by the gang in the town of Tibwadom while in route to Port-de-Paix, and held in the same location, U.S. authorities said. That victim was also released after a ransom payment.

Gang violence recently forced the evacuation of dozens of sick babies and pregnant women from a hospital in the country’s largest slum, and led to more Haitians being displaced in the capital.

On Wednesday, Martin Griffiths, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, referred to the attacks in a post on X.

“Very concerned about the situation in Port-au-Prince where violent clashes last week left dozens of people dead, including children,” he said. “Homes were burned down, families were displaced and hospital patients had to be evacuated. People in #Haiti deserve to work and live in dignity.”

With attacks, sexual violence and kidnappings increasingly on the rise in Haiti, where gangs now control at least 80% of metropolitan Port-au-Prince, the State Department announced last week that U.S. authorities are “committed to ensuring that those involved in the kidnapping and killing of U.S. citizens face severe consequences for their criminal actions.”

This has led to the indictments of several Haitian gang members and leaders. Last November, Fleronvil was among seven gang leaders indicted for their alleged role in the kidnappings of U.S. citizens in Haiti. Three of the leaders were involved in the abduction of 16 Christian missionaries, the Department of Justice said.

That group, which included five children, was kidnapped in Croix-des-Bouquets while returning from visiting an orphanage and most of them were held captive for 61 days after a ransom was paid. The leaders of the 400 Mawozo gang, Lanmo Sanjou, aka Joseph Wilson, and Jermaine Stephenson, aka Gaspiyay, were charged in the missionaries’ kidnapping along with Vitel’homme Innocent, leader of the Kraze Barye gang.

Last week, the FBI announced that it had doubled a $1 million reward to $2 million for information leading to the arrest of Innocent, who was also placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The gang leader’s face is also splattered on billboards across South Florida as part of a strategy that the FBI hopes will lead to his capture in Haiti where his increasing violence and kidnappings forced the U.S. Embassy in Tabarre in July to curtail services, withdraw non-emergency personnel and order U.S. citizens to leave the country.


© 2023 Miami Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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