Suspect in Haitian president's assassination worked as confidential DEA source

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed Tuesday that one of the suspects in the assassination of Haiti's president had worked for the agency as a source.
  • The DEA noted that it was aware of reports that perpetrators yelled "DEA" during the attack, but said the individuals were not acting on behalf of the agency. 
  • While the DEA did not provide the name of the suspect, two law enforcement officials identified him as Joseph Gertand Vincent, NBC News reported Tuesday. 

One of the Haitian-American suspects arrested in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise had worked as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

The DEA confirmed on Tuesday that the suspect was "at times" a confidential source to the agency, and that he reached out to his contacts at the DEA following the killing. 

"A DEA official assigned to Haiti urged the suspect to surrender to local authorities and, along with a U.S. State Department official, provided information to the Haitian government that assisted in the surrender and arrest of the suspect and one other individual," a DEA spokesperson said. 

The DEA noted that it was aware of reports that perpetrators yelled "DEA" during the attack, but said the individuals were not acting on behalf of the agency. 

While the DEA did not provide the name of the suspect, two law enforcement officials identified him as Joseph Gertand Vincent, NBC News reported Tuesday. 

Federal court records acquired by NBC News indicate that Vincent was first arrested more than 20 years ago for filing a false name and date of birth on his U.S. passport application. He was later sentenced to two years of probation and was directed to live in a community corrections center in Florida after he violated the terms of his sentence. 

Vincent had previously been identified as one of two U.S. citizens detained for suspected involvement in the killing of the president at his private Port-au-Prince home last Wednesday. Haitian police identified the other American suspect as James Solages. 

The State Department also confirmed Monday that a third U.S. citizen was arrested in relation to the assassination, but declined to provide further information due to privacy considerations. The department pointed to Haitian authorities for details on the arrest. 

Haitian police said on Sunday that they arrested Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who recently entered Haiti on a private plane "with the intention of taking the Haitian presidency." Sanon was described as being a key figure in the assassination, with Haitian police adding that he was the "first person the attackers called" after the president was killed. 

Several new outlets such as The New York Times and The Miami Herald have reported that Sanon is a doctor based in Florida.

The three Haitian men linked to the U.S. are among more than 20 suspects that Haitian police have arrested so far, alongside 18 Colombians.

The Haitian government has called upon the U.S. and other nations to assist the investigation of the killing, an incident that has only furthered political unrest in the Caribbean nation. Haiti was already struggling with rising gang violence and protests against the late president's increasingly authoritarian rule. 

On Sunday, a delegation of U.S. officials from the National Security Council as well as from the departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice travelled to Haiti to assess the country's political and security situation. 

The delegation's trip came after White House officials told NBC News on Friday that the U.S. does not have plans to send troops to protect critical infrastructure, amid reports Haitian officials had requested military assistance. 

The delegation met with interim leaders of Haiti to encourage free and fair elections, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said Monday in a White House press release. U.S. officials and Haitian police also reviewed the security of the country's critical infrastructure, Horne added. 

"In all their meetings the delegation committed to supporting the Haitian government as it seeks justice in this case and affirmed the United States' support for the people of Haiti in this challenging time," Horne said.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday also announced its efforts to help Haitian authorities with the investigation, noting that an initial assessment in Haiti has been conducted by senior U.S. officials. 

"The department will continue to support the Haitian government in its review of the facts and circumstances surrounding this heinous attack," Department of Justice spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a statement. 

Coley added that the department will look into whether any U.S. laws were violated in relation to the assassination.

Haitian authorities have not announced the motive in the killing, but the late Haitian president had faced harsh criticism for several months before his death. 

Protests against Moise turned violent following accusations that he was seeking to increase his power even after his presidential term expired in February. Opposition leaders and their supporters demanded Moise's resignation and rejected his plans to hold a constitutional referendum with proposals that would strengthen the presidency's power.

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