WASHINGTON – An indictment, filed in the District of Columbia and unsealed today, charges Vitel’homme Innocent, a Haitian national and leader of the Kraze Barye gang, for his alleged role in the October 2022 armed hostage taking, in Haiti, of two U.S. citizens, one of whom was killed during the event.
The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri, of the Miami Field Office.
According to the indictment, Vitel’homme Innocent and the Kraze Barye gang operate in the Ouest department of Haiti to include Delmas, Torcelle, and Tabarre. The gang actively participates in kidnappings for ransom, extortion, and car thefts.
Vitel’homme Innocent ordered gang members to kidnap Jean Franklin and Marie Odette Franklin from their home in Haiti on October 7, 2022. On that date, armed gang members forced entry into the Franklin residence and attempted to kidnap the couple by force. During the kidnapping, Marie Odette Franklin was shot and killed by the gang members. Her husband was taken into captivity and held at an undisclosed location in Haiti. While Jean Franklin was in captivity, Vitel’homme Innocent participated in ransom negotiations in exchange for Jean Franklin’s release. Jean Franklin was released from captivity on October 28, 2022, following ransom payments made to the gang on behalf of his family.
“As alleged in the indictment, Vitel’homme Innocent, a leader of the Kraze Barye gang in Haiti, directed gang members to kidnap two American citizens for ransom, ultimately resulting in the death of one of the victims,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department is vigorously pursuing those who harm or endanger Americans living in Haiti.”
“We remain steadfast in our mission to hold those responsible for violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens in Haiti,” said U.S. Attorney Graves. “The gangs and gang leaders in Haiti must be held accountable for their atrocities committed against innocent civilians. We will utilize all methods at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute those who commit such heinous acts."
“The indictment unsealed today demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads and to work our way up to the leaders of criminal plots wherever they are,” said Special Agent in Charge Veltri. “Neither time nor distance will weaken our resolve. We will use all tools available and go to the farthest reaches of the globe to bring to justice those who seek to harm Americans.”
Vitel’homme Innocent remains at large and is believed to reside in Tabarre, Haiti. Vitel’homme Innocent faces additional charges in the District of Columbia related to his role in the kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens in the Fall of 2021, for which he was indicted. In the Fall of 2022, the U.S. State Department announced a reward offer of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Vitel’homme Innocent. The reward is being offered under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program.
If convicted, Vitel’homme Innocent faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or could face the death penalty.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Miami Field Office, with the assistance of the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Haiti and with valuable assistance from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack F. Korba with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Michael Watts for the District of Columbia.
Charges in an indictment are merely allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.