"I'm president of the Sephardic Jewish community in the Dominican Republic, I help people in this kind of situation. We're not going to charge these people a dime."
- Jorge Puello, Haiti
Jorge Puello, a man providing legal advice to the detained Idaho missionaries in Haiti, is a confirmed fugitive. Mr. Puello is the key suspect in a child prostitution ring in El Salvador.
Puello's mother and stepfather confirmed their son is the man wanted by Salvadoran police in a Saturday interview with the Miami Herald.
This does a couple of things:
- Delays the release of the 10 American missionaries
- Raises more questions about the intentions of Laura Silsby and the other 9 detainees
This alone is disturbing and weird enough, however, Puello has no business offering legal counsel - he isn't even an attorney. Records from the College of Lawyers in the Dominican Republic show no accounting of Jorge Puello.
Though family members of the detainees deny any prior knowledge of Mr. Puello, the judge in Haiti, Benard Saint-Vil wants to investigate any connection before releasing Laura Silsby and the rest of the missionaries.
Puello claims to have been hired by Central Valley Baptist Church - one of a handful who supported the missionary trip - but Pastors Clint Henry and Drew Ham say no.
In an interview with the Idaho Statesman, Ham said, "he [Puello] was brought in as a legal counsel by some of the families." And though denying church involvement in Mr. Puello's hiring, Pastor Henry said, "Puello contacted the church and was among many names given to the family in their hour of need."
Puello, in an interview with the New York Times on Friday said he was offering to represent the American's because he too was a religious man who related to their situation, "I'm president of the Sephardic Jewish community in the Dominican Republic, I help people in this kind of situation. We're not going to charge these people a dime."
The detainee's families - through their lawyers - said they wired $12,000 to Mr. Puello to pay for the American's transportation home upon their release. The families also claim to have had a conference call with Puello last week in which he asked for an additional $36,000. Naturally, Puello denies this phone call ever happened.
The next steps for the American's remains unclear, except that their release will not come today as originally thought. Judge Saint-Vil says unless he finds a connection between Silsby, her group and Jorge Puello, the missionaries will be released pending the results of the kidnapping investigation.
- The Idaho Statesman
- The New York Times
- The Miami Herald