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Press Release

‘King’ of Violent Haitian Gang Sentenced to 35 Years for Gun Smuggling and Money Laundering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia
‘Queen’ Sentenced to 150 months in prison

            WASHINGTON – Joly Germine, 31, of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, was sentenced today to 35 years in prison for his role in a gunrunning conspiracy that smuggled firearms to Haiti in violation of U.S. export laws, and the laundering of ransoms paid for U.S. hostages held by the notoriously violent Haitian gang known as 400 Mawozo. Eliande Tunis, 46, of Pompano Beach, Florida, who styled herself as Germine’s “wife” and was described at trial as the “Queen” of 400 Mawozo, was sentenced on June 5, 2024, to 150 months in prison for her role in the conspiracy. Two other defendants in the conspiracy were also sentenced to jail time for their involvement.

            The sentencings were announced by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI Miami Field Office.

            The conspiracy resulted in the purchase in the United States of at least 24 firearms, including weapons designed for the military and close-quarters combat such as AK-47s, AR-15s, an M4 Carbine rifle, an M1A rifle, and a .50 caliber rifle, which were smuggled from the United States to the gang in Haiti to further their criminal activities. Those firearms were bought using funds laundered from the proceeds of the hostage taking for ransom of U.S. citizens in Haiti in 2021.

            “A leader of the Haitian gang known as 400 Mawozo will now spend 35 years in prison for a scheme to smuggle guns from the United States to Haiti using the proceeds extorted from kidnapping American citizens,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The leaders of violent gangs in Haiti that terrorize Americans citizens in order to fuel their criminal activity will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”

“            All too often, Americans in Haiti have been targets of gang violence,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “These two defendants not only helped lead a prominent violent gang in Haiti, but they were also intimately involved in arming the gang and laundering ransom proceeds the gang obtained from kidnapping Americans. These sentences send a message that those who engage in such violence against Americans, and who arm and launder money on behalf of these violent gangs, will pay a heavy price.”

            “As Joly Germine and Eliande Tunis have just learned, the FBI is dedicated to disrupting and dismantling gangs who undertake hostage-taking of U.S. Citizens anywhere,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI Miami Field Office.  “This includes taking away their ability to wreak violence on the innocent using smuggled firearms.”

            Germine, a Haitian national, pleaded guilty on January 31, 2024, to the 48-count second superseding indictment, which charged him with conspiring to violate U.S. export control laws and to defraud the United States, violating export control laws, smuggling, and laundering the proceeds of ransoms paid to free U.S. hostages taken by the gang and laundering money to promote his crimes. Germine’s plea came at the end of the government’s case at trial, which included the testimony of 24 witnesses and two weeks of evidence.

            Germine’s co-defendant Tunis, who had a supervisory role in the conspiracy, pleaded guilty on the eve of trial on January 17, 2024, to the same 48-count indictment, and was sentenced on June 5 to 150 months in prison. Other co-defendants, Jocelyn Dor, 31, and Walder St. Louis, 35, who acted as a straw gun purchasers for Germine and Tunis, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 60 months and 36 months, respectively, for their roles in the gun-smuggling and money laundering scheme.

            According to evidence presented at trial, from at least March through November 2021, Germine, Tunis, and two co-defendants conspired with each other and with other gang members in Haiti to acquire and supply firearms to the 400 Mawozo gang in Haiti. Germine directed the gang’s operations from a Haitian prison using unmonitored cell phones, including directing gang members in Haiti to transfer money to Tunis and others in the United States for the purpose of obtaining firearms for the gang. Germine then provided Tunis and the two other U.S.-based co-defendants, all Florida residents, specifications for firearms and ammunition that Germine and other gang leaders wanted sent to Haiti. Tunis and the two co-defendants then purchased at least 24 rifles, handguns, and a shotgun at Florida gun shops while falsely stating that they were the “actual buyers” of the firearms, when they were in fact acting as straw purchasers for Germine. 

            In May 2021, Tunis smuggled firearms and ammunition to Haiti in containers disguised as food and household goods. In October 2021, Tunis attempted to ship additional firearms and ammunition to Haiti, again by smuggling the firearms, but those firearms were seized by the FBI before they left the United States.

            400 Mawozo is a violent Haitian gang that operated in the Croix-des-Bouquets area to the east of the capital, Port-au-Prince. From at least January 12, 2020, 400 Mawozo was engaged in armed hostage takings of U.S. citizens in Haiti for ransom. The victims generally had been forced from their vehicles at gunpoint and kept in various locations by armed gang members while their relatives and colleagues negotiated payment for their release. At trial, the government presented evidence that the gang received ransom payments from the hostage taking of three U.S. citizens in the summer of 2021, who testified at trial, and the cash ransom proceeds were commingled with the gang’s funds and transferred via MoneyGram and Western Union from the United States to Haiti to buy more firearms.

            In the fall of 2021, the 400 Mawozo gang claimed responsibility for taking 16 U.S. citizens hostage, including five children, and one Canadian citizen who were part of a missionary organization visiting an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The gang demanded a ransom of $1 million for each hostage. The hostages were all released or had escaped by December 16, 2021. While Germine has been charged in a separate indictment in relation to that hostage-taking incident, today’s sentencing does not address those charges, which are lodged in case number 22cr161 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

            The FBI Miami Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement. Valuable assistance was provided by the government of Haiti, particularly the Haitian National Police, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida’s Special Prosecutions Section.

            The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen P. Seifert and Kimberly Paschall and Paralegal Specialist Jorge Casillas for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Beau Barnes of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.


Updated June 24, 2024

National Security
Press Release Number: 24-531