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Former mayor of Les Irois, Haiti arrested for visa fraud following HSI investigation

Human RightsFormer mayor of Les Irois, Haiti arrested for visa fraud following HSI investigation

BOSTON — Jean Morose Viliena, 50, was indicted March 23 for illegally obtaining a permanent resident card, commonly referred to as a green card, by means of a false statement — specifically that he had not ordered, carried out or materially assisted in extrajudicial and political killings and other acts of violence against the Haitian people.

Viliena, former Mayor of Les Irois, Haiti, was indicted on three counts of visa fraud and will appear in federal court in Boston March 23. The indictment is the result of a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New England and the Human Rights Violator and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) investigation.

“HSI will continue to pursue justice and accountability to ensure that those who have committed atrocities abroad cannot hide among their victims nor abuse our immigration laws,” said HSI Assistant Director for National Security Andre Watson. “The United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals.”

According to court documents, Viliena was the former mayor of Les Irois, Haiti, from December 2006 until at least February 2010. As a candidate and as mayor, Viliena was backed by a political militia called Korega, which exerts power throughout the southwestern region of Haiti through armed violence. Viliena personally supervised his mayoral staff and security detail and led an armed group in Les Irois aligned with Korega. Under Viliena’s direct supervision, the Korega militia enforced Viliena’s policies by various means, including by targeting political opponents in Les Irois through armed violence.

According to the indictment, as mayor, Viliena was involved in several instances of violence. The first allegedly occurred in or around July 27, 2007, when a witness spoke at a judicial proceeding in Les Irois on behalf of a neighbor who had been assaulted by Viliena. In reprisal for that testimony, Viliena allegedly led an armed group to that witness’ home that evening, where he and his associates shot and killed the witness’ younger brother and then smashed his skull with a large rock before a crowd of bystanders.

The second incident allegedly occurred in or around March 2008, when a group of local journalists and activists founded a community radio station. According to court documents, Viliena opposed establishment of the radio station and, on April 8, 2008, mobilized members of his staff and the Korega militia to forcibly shut down the radio station and seize its broadcasting equipment. At that time, Viliena distributed firearms to the Korega militia members, some of whom also carried machetes, picks and sledgehammers.

On the day of the radio station attack, Viliena allegedly pistol-whipped a man with his gun and struck him with his fists. When the man tried to flee, Viliena allegedly ordered one of his associates to shoot and kill him. Shots were fired that hit the man in the leg. The man spent several months in various hospitals and his leg was later amputated above his knee.

Another citizen of Haiti allegedly became one of Viliena’s targets because of his association with the radio station. Allegedly, on the day of the radio station attack, the man was present and when he tried to flee, a bullet hit him in the face. He required months of intensive medical treatment, including two surgeries to extract shotgun pellets from his face, which left him permanently blind in one eye. According to court documents, pieces of shotgun pellets remain in the man’s scalp and arms.

On June 3, 2008, Viliena presented himself at the U.S. Embassy Consular Office in Port au Prince, Haiti, where he submitted a visa application to enter the United States. The form specifically requires applicants to state whether they are members of any class of individuals excluded from admission into the United States, including those who have “ordered, carried out or materially assisted in extrajudicial and political killings and other acts of violence against the Haitian people.” Viliena allegedly falsely responded that he was not part of any such group. Viliena then swore or affirmed before a U.S. consular officer that the contents of his application were true and signed the application. According to court documents, on or about June 4, 2008, and based upon his false representations, the U.S. Department of State approved Viliena’s visa application.

On or about July 14, 2008, as the result of the approval, Viliena entered the United States and was granted lawful permanent resident status and received a permanent resident card. He has continued to possess the card and has used it on numerous occasions to enter the United States.

A conviction of visa fraud can lead to up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes that govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, HSI acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Krol, Director of Field Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Boston field office Jennifer De La O, and Malden Police Chief Glenn Cronin made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura J. Kaplan of Rollins’ National Security Unit and Christina Giffin and Alexandra Skinnion of the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Unit Section (HRSP) are prosecuting the case with assistance from HRSP historian Christopher Hayden.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Established in 2008, the HRVWCC furthers HSI’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders. Since 2003, HSI has arrested more than 480 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, HSI obtained deportation orders against and physically removed 1,100 known or suspected human rights violators from the United States. Additionally, HSI has facilitated the departure of an additional 186 such individuals from the United States.

Currently, HSI has more than 160 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,700 leads and removals cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 78,000 lookouts for individuals and stopped over 350 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the United States.

Members of the public who have information about foreign fugitives are urged to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) by calling the ICE tip line at 866-347-2324 or internationally at 001-1802-872-6199. They can also file a tip online by completing the online tip form.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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