The Dominican legal adviser to the ten American Baptist volunteers facing charges of child kidnapping in Haiti is himself wanted in El Salvador on charges of human trafficking and in the United States for human smuggling.
Jorge Torres Puello, who was hired by the families of the Americans for legal advice, is accused of operating an international sex trafficking ring using women and girls from the Caribbean and Central America. He allegedly lured girls by promising modeling contracts but instead made them work as prostitutes.
An international arrest warrant was issued Saturday for Puello on sex-trafficking charges.
His wife, Ana Josefa Ramirez Orellana, has already been arrested and charged with sex trafficking by Salvadoran police. The two allegedly operated a brothel out of their home.
Meanwhile in the United States, there are several arrest warrants out for Puello, who also goes by the alias of Jorge Torres Orellana, according to CNN. Puello, who was born in New York, said he is wanted in America on charges of human smuggling between the United States and Canada.
He has denied all the charges against him.
Puello is responsible for putting together the legal team in Haiti to represent the ten American volunteers. According to family members of the Americans, Puello had contacted them first and offered his service for free. Puello said he read about the case and wanted to help.
In late January, a group of ten American Christians were arrested while trying to transport a bus with 33 Haitian children to the Dominican Republic after Haiti’s massive earthquake. The group says it was taking the children to an orphanage in the neighboring country where the children would be cared for and educated.
Haitian authorities, however, say the group did not receive permission from the government to take the children out of the country.
The volunteers face charges of child kidnapping and criminal association.
But on Thursday, the judge overseeing the case recommended that all ten U.S. volunteers be freed while the case continues to be investigated. Despite the recommendation, the group members have still not been released. Moreover, their Haitian attorneys are trying to distance them from Puello, who is facing his own human trafficking charges.
“The Puello case has no relation to this one,” said Aviol Fleurant, who represents nine of the ten Americans, to The Associated Press. “If Puello is wanted in El Salvador, that’s another case.”
The legal team representing volunteer Jim Allen, who is not legally represented with the other nine Baptists, continues to call for his release, arguing that he only knew about the Haiti trip 48 hours beforehand.
“Mr. Allen is a generous, hard-working American who went to Haiti with only 48 hours notice to help rebuild, and should be on his way home tomorrow morning,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at Liberty Legal Institute, in a statement Sunday. “Support for Mr. Allen grows by the minute, and it is time to bring Jim home.”
The ten American Christian volunteers were arrested on Jan. 29 and have since been kept in prison.