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FEBRUARY 15, 2010 8:58AM

Man advising missionaries suspect in sex-trafficking ring

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"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."
 
There is a history of Sephardic Jews in the Dominican Republic, however, no connections have been made to that community by Puello's family or the community itself.  
 
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.
 
Sources:
  • The Idaho Statesman
  • The New York Times
  • The Miami Herald 

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JK - I contend that the life of Laura Silsby will be made into a Lifetime movie, starring Meredith Baxter Burney or Cybil Shepard.
If this becomes a movie, it will rival "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
This is going down the way I initially thought it would.
As if the Haitian people don't have enough to deal with already. Now they got vultures, too.
And who were the border guards that stopped them from leaving Haiti? Those people should be receiving medals.
This proves that if you do shady stuff, you attract shady people.
Wow, what's next in this saga? I still harbor feelings of unease over the intentions of these 10 people, and this certainly does not help.
Good story, I was distracted by the misuse of apostrophes.
CraZy! It gets more complicated doesn't it Akopsa.
Thanks for the report.
This is turning into a bad soap opera, “As the stomach turns”.
Unbelievable! It just keeps getting weirder.
This is getting painful to follow. Ms Silsby appears more and more like a vampire each day, looking to suck the life out of these children in tragedy. And now she seems to have grown a vampire following.
I really thought it was over. Now, honestly, it's giving me headspins. Please somebody make it stop.
All hiding uder the umbrella of some kind of religiousity, when will we ever learn that religion is not the carte blanche to do something considered good by some.....we get fanned by the marketing of mentioning religion in the same context of whatever the current scam is.....leader of the sephardic jewish community my a-s.
Great job on keeping up with this never ending nightmare, thank you. I'm with Juliet, it's giving me headspins. The poor Haitians and aide workers have enough to dealing with the disaster, now we add the shady lawyer to the missionary fiasco... what a curse.
What this shows is that the missionaries had a criminal lack of judgement. There's a point when good intentions and stupidity add up to evil. The laws requiring documentation and permission were absolutely necessary and I hope everyone who sneered at what they supposed was an oxymoron, 'Haitian law,' has learned their lesson.
With friends like these... Weirder and weirder.
To echo Ghostwriter's sentiment, this nis pretty mich turning into the trainwreck I feared it would.
I *so* wish I could go back and fix the typos in that comment.... :(