Big news popping out of DR tonight.

The New York Times reports a growing amount of evidence to connect New Life Children’s Refuge “legal adviser” Jorge Puello to a sex trafficking ring operating in El Salvador. The trafficking suspect, who police believe is Puello, worked with Pablo Nasser, the former deputy director of the Salvadoran Immigration Service to lure foreign girls and women into the country and sell them into prostitution.

The latest break comes from two sources: (1) photographs that appear to match Puello and the trafficking suspect and (2) public and court records linking Puello to a Florida address that is tied to the suspect.

Hey, I thought Jorge didn’t have a passport!

Here’s what the Times says:

The Salvadoran police asked their Dominican counterparts on Friday to arrest Mr. Puello. “Dominican authorities should proceed to detain him,” said Augusto Cotto, deputy director of investigations for the Salvadoran police. “If the fingerprints coincide, we’d begin the process to try to bring him to El Salvador.”

Eric Álvarez, a spokesman for the Salvadoran chief prosecutor’s office, said Friday that judicial officials had determined that photographs of Mr. Puello in Haiti matched those of the suspect wanted in El Salvador.


Asked about his identity [by police] Mr. Puello said that he had been married to Valerie Velasquez and that their home address in the United States had been in Plantation, Fla. Public documents and court records seem to tie, by name and birth date, Mr. Puello and the Florida street address to the suspect in the Salvadoran case.

Just for fun, I ran an Intellius search for Jorge and Valerie and found them in Plantation. Of course, the police, which I’m not, used something better than that. I have been unable to find a home address for Jorge or his brother Alejandro in Dominican online phone books.

The new revelations may keep the New Lifers in their cells for awhile. Judge Saint-Vil was expected to order some kind of release on Monday, but he has made clear that he wants the Puello situation settled before he does anything:

Judge Saint-Vil said he had no choice but to delay the group’s release until he knew more about Mr. Puello’s identity, any ties he might have to trafficking and what, if anything, the Americans knew about him…

…“I am working as fast as I can,” Judge Saint-Vil said. “But I must first understand Mr. Puello.”

The judge said an official from the American Embassy had called him Thursday night and asked for any information the judge had about Mr. Puello. He said the embassy would provide him on Monday with whatever additional information it was able to find about Mr. Puello.

Three days is an awfully short time to make a determination on the “good intentions” of the child lifters in light of Puello’s suspected vocation. No decision should be made until the prints are made or other compelling evidence presented. If the prints match, then I think the “good intentions” of most or all of the New Lifers is gonna deep six., though no doubt they’ll argue they were duped and innocent souls just going about God’s orphan work.

I’ve got more to say about this, but it’s nearly 5 in the morning and I’m going to bed.

But two more things:

As an addenda to my previous blog about who “hired” Puello to “advise” the New Lifers, we have this from the New York Times now:

Asked about the judge’s decision to delay the Americans’ release, Louis Gary Lissade, a lawyer for one detainee, voiced frustration. “My client never chose Mr. Puello,” said Mr. Lissade, a former Haitian minister of justice who represents Jim Allen. “In fact, I don’t even know whether anyone chose Mr. Puello to represent the group.”

Which again, brings up the question: why did Puello approach the Idaho families and offer his services? Did he already have an in with some of them, particularly Sean Lankford, whose daughter Charisa had traveled to DR and Haiti several times with Laura Silsby and may have known him from previous trips? Was it a cover for his own role in the kidjacking? Did he think he’d make a nifty bundle from the church folks who saw Puello as God’s unfolding in their lives?

Finally, for a good read on the case from a non-adoption angle check out Twelfth Bough who has an intriguing theory that Puello, who claimed to be “president of the Sephardic community” in DR, was running people through Chabad. I have to mull that over a bit.

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  1. Oh My! Now THAT’S a ‘connection’ that should leave the NewLifers quivering in their boots. They all should be doing everything they can to distance themselves from Puello as far and as fast as they can, if they want to go home.

    BTW, where does the line form for those of us who might like to disembowel this person with a rusty machete? I am against the death penalty but would reconsider for child abusers, child rapists, child molesters and traffickers.

  2. I really admire the work you are doing and hope you keep digging to find out exactly what the facts are concerning the debacle in Haiti.

    Along with haitivox.com there is good information from the Dominican Republican forums http://www.dr1.com/forums/haiti-earthquake/100199-who-can-stop-tragedy-27.html

    There was also a poster on the WSJ forums who claims to have worked with Silsby for eight months in the DR. I don’t know if this person is genuine or fake but I will include the link and you can check his posts(keep clicking more at the bottom to see all his posts).


  3. It appears the poster from the WSJ forums is also included in the newest update from the WSJ.

    The article also states there is no previous connection between Puello and the missionaries.

    A silver lining in all of this is the light it has placed on Puello. If he is the person authorities are looking for we can thank the missionaries’ situation for bringing him to their attention, however unintentional it may have been.

    It is beginning to appear that the missionaries may have been full of good but misguided intentions and several unfortunate coincidences.

  4. NYT now reports that Jorge Puello is wanted in Canada and the US for fraud, among other things. There are outstanding warrants for his arrest. His cousin/business partner says that Jorge is now “missing.”

    Apparently, Jorge Puello was born in Yonkers, lived in Florida, Canada and now the DR. He says he doesn’t have a passport. No, probably three (or more).

    Curiouser and curiouser..

  5. Anonymous writes:
    “we can thank the missionaries’ situation for bringing him to their attention”.
    True, but it also shows how hardheaded they are. From all accounts it seems the US Embassy in Haiti had offered a list of local attorneys they know (as Embassies always do when US citizens get arrested) but the group decided to pick someone – from another country to boot! – they didn’t know, who then started fighting with Coq, the lawyer he appointed himself!

    If they had followed the Embassy’s advice this thing would have been settled much faster.

    Glad to read the judge decided to handle the two cases separately, which means they’ll be released soon.

  6. Given Puello’s links to real estate, and Silbey’s quest to purchase property down there, I would be very, very surprised if they hadn’t had prior communication. Will ver very interesting to see how this unfolds.

    I’m in Idaho, live right down the street from the church in question.

  7. There are two articles (in Spanish, one can do Google translate and read in English) concerning the Torres trafficking ring (May 2009 and October 2009). Mentioned in the articles is a Pablo Nasser, who was deputy director of immigration in El Salvador.

    Nasser has been described in a recent NYT article as working with Torres. I’m not sure if Nasser is connected to Torres by fault or unintentionally.

    From what I can read (this is from the English translations of the articles) there was an SUV recovered from Torres’ home with Nasser’s name on the documentation. Nasser says he sold a car to Torres’ common-law wife and she did not follow through with the paperwork to register it in her name.

    Also, I believe there was some sort of immigrantion document recovered from Torres’ home with Nasser’s signature on it. Nasser says it was a forgery. I don’t know if there was any further investigation of Nasser (with trafficking). Anyways, it adds another twist to the situation in Haiti.

    If one is fluent in Spanish you may get a better handle on what is written in the articles. If my interpretation is lacking please correct. I am providing the links to both the Spanish and English versions. (I’m not sure the English translation links will format properly. If not copy the Spanish title into Google and you can revert to the English translation.)

    May 2009 Spanish


    May 29 English


    October 2009 Spanish


    October 2009 English


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