The FBI earlier this month announced that Haitian gang leader Vitel’Homme Innocent had been added to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for the kidnappings and murder of American missionaries in Haiti in 2021 and 2022, the Associated Press reported.
While the FBI conceded that it would be difficult to capture Innocent in a lawless nation like Haiti, the US State Department announced that it would pay as much as $2 million for any information that leads to his arrest.
Last month, Innocent was indicted in the US for the 2021 armed kidnapping of sixteen missionaries, including five children, as well as the 2022 murder of missionary Marie Franklin and the kidnapping of her husband Jean Franklin.
Most of the sixteen missionaries escaped their captivity after 61 days while the remainder were later released.
Jean Franklin was released three weeks after his abduction when his family paid the ransom.
According to the FBI, Vitel’Homme Innocent heads up the Kraze Bayre gang which, along with the 400 Mawozo gang, orchestrated the kidnappings.
The FBI believes that Innocent is still in Haiti. If he is captured and convicted of Marie Franklin’s murder in a US court, he would likely face the death penalty.
Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Veltri of the Miami field office told reporters that Innocent is a “menace” both to the island of Haiti and to US citizens.
Veltri said the FBI would work with its international partners to apprehend Innocent if he is located but admitted that even if federal law enforcement obtains Innocent’s whereabouts, capturing him would be difficult in a country like Haiti.
Haiti’s criminal gangs have grown more powerful since the 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, with many of the gangs better armed than Haitian police. On November 15, a heavily armed gang stormed a hospital in Port-au-Prince abducting hundreds of women and children, including newborns.