Haitian gang leader Vitel’homme Innocent has been added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ list.
The FBI in Miami announced Wednesday that there’s now a $2 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the 37-year-old.
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, Vitel’Homme 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 organised crime,” said the State Department.
“The State Department is offering a reward of up to $2,000,0000 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 ties to other Caribbean countries.
The increase in the reward for Innocent comes a few days after Iskar Andrice, a powerful gang leader in Haiti, who was known as a former math and physics teacher, was killed in a neighbourhood within a sprawling seaside slum that he controlled.
The exact date of his death remains unclear, but his death has raised concerns of an escalation in gang violence in the country.
Media reports said that Andrice led a ruthless gang involved in a wide array of criminal activities, including murder, robbery, extortion, rape, and hijacking. He joined forces with notorious gang leader Jimmy Chérizier, known as Barbecue, becoming a key figure in the “G9 Family and Allies” alliance, Haiti’s largest and most potent gang group.
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