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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 7, 2022

Haitian Gang Member Charged with Hostage Taking for Kidnapping of 16 U.S. Missionaries in Fall 2021

Most Victims Held for 61 Days, In Effort to Secure Gang Leader’s Release from Prison

            WASHINGTON – A criminal complaint was unsealed today charging Jean Pelice, a Haitian national, also known as “Zo,” with hostage taking for his role in the armed kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens in Haiti in the fall of 2021. The victims were Christian missionaries serving in Haiti and most of them were held captive for 61 days before escaping.

            Pelice, 27, a member of the 400 Mawozo gang, was transferred into U.S. custody on May 16, 2022, on the basis of an arrest warrant in the matter and has since been detained. He made his initial appearance this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

            Matthew M. Graves, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and John J. Bernardo, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Miami Field Office, made the announcement today.

            The charges brought today are related to the Oct. 16, 2021, kidnapping of 17 Christian missionaries near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Sixteen of the kidnapping victims were U.S. citizens, including five children, one as young as eight months’ old.  According to the complaint, Pelice, along with other 400 Mawozo gang members, used firearms to guard the missionaries during their captivity. 400 Mawozo made ransom demands for the release of the missionaries, and one of the gang’s stated goals in holding the hostages was to secure from the Haitian government release of Joly Germine, a 400 Mawozo leader, from prison. Two of the hostages were released on or about Nov. 18, 2021, and three more were released on or about Dec. 5, 2021.  The remaining hostages escaped captivity on or about Dec. 16, 2021. 

            Germine, 29, also known as “Yonyon,” was indicted in the District of Columbia on May 10, 2022, on a charge of conspiracy to commit hostage taking. He has pleaded not guilty.

            Charges in a complaint or indictment are merely allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

            The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Miami Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen P. Seifert, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Jorge Casillas, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Topic(s): 
National Security
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
22-208
Updated July 7, 2022