TAMPA — A certified public accountant who opened several businesses and nonprofits with strong ties to Haiti is among a group of men charged by federal authorities of playing a key role in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021.
Frederick J. Bergmann, 64, of Tampa, was arrested earlier this month and is accused of smuggling goods, including 20 ballistic vests disguised as medical X-ray vests and school supplies. He could face up to 20 years in prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida charged Bergmann with conspiracy to commit export violations and submitting false and misleading export information. According to the grand jury indictment, Bergmann became a plot supporter and investor. A total of 11 suspects have been arrested, including Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a dual Haitian-American citizen who held political aspirations in Haiti.
Bergmann and Sanon were partners in at least three corporations and nonprofits, ranging from medical aid to health care and political activism. One of these was Organisation Rome Haiti, founded by Bergmann in 2010 to provide health care services and goods to indigent Haitians. Another group was Citizens for Haiti Reform in 2011, “to change the humanitarian injustices currently in Haiti due to leadership and other deficiencies,” Florida records showed. In 2008 they also operated a nonprofit to provide basic medical services in Haiti.
All are now inactive.
Ludner Confident, a Haitian immigrant and anesthesiologist who lives in Clearwater, met Bergmann more than a decade ago. He said he didn’t know about the accusations against Bergmann.
“He was a good person and I supported the Organisation Rome Haiti because it was helping people in Port-au-Prince with hospitals and labs,” Confident told the Tampa Bay Times.
In 2010 Bergmann was interviewed by Bay News 9 about his efforts to provide tents and relief supplies to the people of Haiti following the earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country that year.
“I was with his group for a year or two, and I gave some money, $200 here and $200 there, when we needed to raise money,” said Confident.
Since the assassination of Moïse at his private home by a squad of former Colombian soldiers, conditions have grown worse in Haiti.
Fadia Richardson, a Haitian immigrant and the longtime financial security secretary for the Haitian Association Foundation of Tampa Bay, said she never heard about Bergmann and his nonprofits in Tampa, even when she used to travel to Haiti to do humanitarian work.
Richardson has not visited Haiti since 2019 because of the political crisis and the insecurity.
“There is no law and order in Haiti, and it is complete chaos. Kidnapping is on the rise, and people fear for their lives,” said Richardson. “Some people refuse to leave their homes in fear of getting kidnapped. Food is expensive, and there seems to be more poverty.”
Mark R. Schlakman, senior program director of the Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, said he’s not in a position to address the facts and circumstances surrounding President Moïse’s assassination. But he said Haitians are confronting more challenges and problems than ever before.
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“The situation seemingly has reached unprecedented and mind-numbing levels,” Schlakman said. “And continues to spiral also insofar as food insecurity and major outbreaks of cholera.”