Federal agents on Tuesday arrested the owners of a South Florida security company with ties to the assassination of Haiti’s former president, according to one of their lawyers, the latest step in an investigation that has implicated several American citizens.
The suspects, Antonio Intriago, a Venezuelan-American businessman, and Arcángel Pretel Ortiz, a Colombian American citizen, were detained in South Florida and were expected to appear in court later on Tuesday, a lawyer for Mr. Intriago said.
Their company, CTU Security, based in Doral, Florida, recruited some 20 former Colombian soldiers who helped storm the home of the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, the night of his assassination in July 2021. Lawyers for Mr. Intriago previously admitted that CTU recruited the men.
“I can confirm that Intriago was arrested this morning and has been in Miami for the course of the investigation,” Joseph Tesmond, Mr. Intriago’s lawyer, said. “He intends to enter a not guilty plea at his bond hearing this afternoon.”
Mr. Tesmond also confirmed the arrests of Mr. Pretel and a third suspect: Walter Veintemilla, an American citizen and financier living in Florida, who lent $172,000 to CTU Security to finance their operations in Haiti, according to Haitian authorities.
Understand the Assassination of Haiti’s President
President Jovenel Moïse was killed on July 7, 2021, in an attack at his private residence on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
- What Happened: Before his murder, Mr. Moïse took a number of steps to fight drug and arms smugglers. Some officials fear he was killed for it.
- The Attack: Martine Moïse, the president’s widow who was struck by gunfire during the attack, recounted the nighttime raid.
- The Aftermath: Haiti, which has struggled with a legacy of corruption, violence and political paralysis, plunged into further crisis after the killing.
- Murder Investigation: The United States, which assumed a leading role in investigating the death, and has charged a former Colombian commando, a Haitian businessman and five other men with the assassination.
On July 7, 2021, assailants entered Mr. Moïse’s home outside Port-au-Prince and shot him 12 times, leaving him dead and wounding his wife. The murder accelerated Haiti’s spiral into unchecked violence, as gangs stepped in to to fill the power vacuum and now control most of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital.
While about two dozen suspects have been arrested in Haiti and Miami, authorities in both countries have struggled to identify the plot’s masterminds. There were no immediate details on the charges against the three men arrested on Tuesday.
Mr. Intriago released a statement shortly after Mr. Moïse’s murder saying he was unaware of the plans to assassinate the former president. Initially, he said, the plan was to arrest Mr. Moïse and force him to step down, replacing him with a Haitian American pastor named Christian Emmanuel Sanon.
CTU Security recruited the Colombian mercenaries and looked for funding from Mr. Veintemilla to finance the operation to arrest Mr. Moïse. The firm hoped to provide security for infrastructure projects in Haiti that Mr. Sanon intended to undertake once he became president of the country.
But just a few weeks before the assassination, the plan changed and Mr. Sanon was no longer seen as a viable candidate to lead the country. The plot morphed from a plan to arrest Mr. Moïse to assassinating him, according to the Justice Department.
The South Florida security firm is also accused in another plot to assassinate a political figure, President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora of Bolivia, about a year before Mr. Moïse’s murder.
Representatives from the security firm — including Mr. Pretel — traveled to Bolivia in October 2020, and allegedly plotted with the defense minister to assassinate Mr. Arce and prevent him from winning the election, according to the Bolivian government.
In the United States, the Justice Department has so far charged seven suspects in connection with Mr. Moïse’s assassination, including four last month.
Three of the four are accused of conspiracy in the killing: James Solages, 37, and Joseph Vincent, 57, who are dual Haitian American citizens; and Germán Alejandro Rivera García, 44, a Colombian accused of leading the group of mercenaries on the ground in Haiti.
The fourth, Dr. Sanon, 65, was charged with counts related to smuggling, though was not charged with conspiracy to commit murder. All four are set to be arraigned and enter pleas on Feb. 15.
The Justice Department had previously charged three others in the assassination, including a Haitian businessman, a former Colombian soldier and a former senator of Haiti.