US increases reward for Haitian gang leader now among FBI’s most wanted
WASHINGTON (CMC) – The United States has increased the reward offer for information leading to the arrest and or conviction of Haitian gang leader Vitel‘homme Innocent, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) placing him on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The US State Department said that the reward has been increased to US$2 million.
Innocent was indicted for allegedly leading a gang that helped in the 2021 armed hostage-taking of 16 Christian missionaries serving near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Most were held captive for 61 days before escaping. The group included five children, one as young as eight months old at the time of the kidnapping.
The US Department of Justice had earlier released the indictment against Innocent for “conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, and other charges.”
In another indictment unsealed in October 2023, Innocent is alleged to have participated in a second hostage-taking incident in which one US citizen was killed.
Officials say Marie Odette Franklin was allegedly shot and killed by the gang members. Her husband was allegedly taken into captivity and held at an undisclosed location in Haiti. While Jean Franklin was in captivity, Innocent allegedly participated in ransom negotiations in exchange for his release.
On October 28, 2022, Jean Franklin was released from captivity following ransom payments made to the gang on behalf of his family.
“The United States supports the efforts of our Haitian law enforcement partners to enforce rule of law in Haiti and combat transnational organized crime,” said the State Department.
“The State Department is offering a reward of up to $2,000,000 for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction. Our resolve to bring him to account for his alleged crimes will not waver. I want to thank the State Departments Diplomatic Security Service and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for their close cooperation and partnership investigating these cases.”
The FBI said Innocent is believed to be in Haiti, but has other ties to other Caribbean countries.