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U.S. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division speaks during a press conference where new arrests and charges were announced in the 7 July 2021 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Private Security Company Principals Arrested in 2021 Plot to Kill Haitian President

U.S. federal prosecutors allege that the plot to overthrow and ultimately kill Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 was hatched by businessmen who hoped to win lucrative contracts in the nation under a new administration, including infrastructure projects, providing security forces, and selling military-type equipment to a new Haitian government, The New York Times reported.

The charges were unveiled after the FBI arrested four more people this week for their alleged role in the assassination, including principals of a private security company, Antonio Intriago, 59, and Arcangel Pretel Ortiz, 50, that reportedly hired a squad of former Colombian soldiers for the mission. Walter Veintemilla, 54, and Frederick Bergmann, 64, were also charged and arrested.

The suspects join another seven people who were previously arrested and charged in the United States for their alleged roles in the plot. A South Florida grand jury returned a third superseding indictment against these individuals.

“Today, individuals who we allege participated in the planning, financing, and orchestration of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse will face justice in an American courtroom,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, as outlined in a DOJ press release. “The court documents unsealed today outline an alleged plan by the defendants, some of whom were operating within the United States, to remove President Moise from office by either killing or kidnapping him in order to replace him with a candidate who would serve their political goals and financial interests. The Justice Department will not tolerate individuals plotting violent attacks from U.S. soil that undermine the rule of law abroad.”

Intriago and Ortiz are principals of Counter Terrorist Unit Federal Academy and Counter Terrorist Unit Security (collectively, CTU), which hired the Colombian squad, were charged with conspiracy to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States. 

Florida-based financier Veintemilla is accused of funding the operation, lending CTU $175,000 to finance its operations in Haiti, the DOJ said. Bergmann is accused of smuggling goods for the operation, including 20 CTU-branded ballistic vests disguised as medical X-ray vests, the Associated Press reported.

At the time of the assassination, Ortiz was an FBI informant, but the Times reported that the Bureau terminated the relationship following the attack. Federal court documents said that several of the alleged conspirators met with the FBI months before the killing to try and start a discussion about regime change in Haiti (an agent rebuffed the attempt, the documents said).

The defendants allegedly used coded terms like “screws,” “nails,” and “tools” to refer to weapons and ammunitions needed for the attack, and communications detailed “a calculated plot that was intended to encourage civil unrest as cover for the assassins’ entry into the President’s residence to carry out a ‘hit’ that resulted in his death,” said Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security at the DOJ.

CTU is also accused of being involved in another assassination plot—that of Bolivian President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora—a year before Moïse’s murder, the Times noted.

If convicted, Ortiz, Intriago, and Veintemilla face up to life in prison. Bergmann could face up to 20 years.

“Haiti is no stranger to hardship and suffering. While most human beings would consider events that destroy hundreds of thousands of lives, homes, schools, and infrastructure tragedies, there are others who consider them opportunities to gain money and power,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe in a DOJ press release. “When greed and ambition lead to violations of U.S. law, we will prosecute.”