U.S. federal prosecutors have charged the leader of a notoriously violent Haitian gang in connection with the kidnapping of 16 Americans last year, the Associated Press reports. Germine Joly, 29, who is also known as “Yonyon,” leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, is the first person charged by DOJ with having any involvement in the kidnapping of the Christian missionaries. He was extradited to the U.S. last week and faces separate firearm trafficking charges. The indictment says Joly was in a Haitian prison during the kidnapping but was nonetheless able to direct his group’s operations, including ransom negotiations for the captives’ release. One of the stated goals of the hostage-taking was to get the Haitian government to release Joly from prison.
A total of 17 people from the missionary group — 12 adults and five minors — were abducted Oct. 16 after visiting an orphanage in Ganthier. The group included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Joly is due to make his first court appearance Wednesday. “This case shows that the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a U.S. citizen abroad,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We will utilize the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to hold accountable anyone responsible for undermining the safety of Americans anywhere in the world.”