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Adviser for U.S. missionaries in Haiti is arrested on human-trafficking charges

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A man who once acted as the lawyer for a group of U.S. Baptist missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian children was arrested on human-trafficking charges, authorities said Friday.

Jorge Puello, 32, was detained at the United States' request as he left a McDonald's restaurant late Thursday in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, said National Drug Control Agency spokesman Roberto Lebron.

A judge has 30 days to meet with Puello, Dominican authorities and an attorney representing the U.S. government before deciding whether to honor the government's extradition request, he said.

Puello, who was born in New York and holds both U.S. and Dominican citizenship, is wanted in Vermont and in Canada for smuggling illegal immigrants, and in Philadelphia for probation violations related to fraud charges, said a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He is wanted in El Salvador for crimes against children; sexual exploitation of minors; organized crime; and human trafficking, ICE said. Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Puello at El Salvador's request.

Puello has denied all of the allegations.

Puello initially served as legal adviser and spokesman for the 10 American Baptists who were detained in Haiti on child kidnapping charges in February.

Nine of the missionaries were released and returned to the United States. Group leader Laura Silsby remains in custody in Haiti.

Rain floods camp

One of the heaviest rainfalls since Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake swamped tents housing homeless Haitians on Friday, sweeping screaming residents into eddies of water and overflowing latrines in a camp of about 45,000 people in Port-au-Prince, the capital. After the sun rose Friday, people used sticks and their bare hands to dig drainage ditches around their tarps and shanties.

Associated Press

Adviser for U.S. missionaries in Haiti is arrested on human-trafficking charges 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 9:15pm]
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