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Haitian mayor, accused of persecution, is arrested for visa fraud


A former Haitian mayor has been arrested in the United States on three charges of visa fraud, a day after a court ordered him to pay $15.5 million for his alleged role in the violent persecution of his political rivals.

Jean Morose Viliena, 50, is expected to appear in a federal court in Boston, Massachusetts shortly after he was detained on immigration charges Wednesday. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In a statement, the US Attorney’s Office denounced the “horrific violence” committed by the former mayor in his homeland of Haiti as leader of the commune Les Irois, located on the island’s southwestern peninsula.

“Our country provides protection, assistance and asylum to those facing persecution,” US Attorney Rachael Rollins said in the press release. “People who commit violence and harm in their country — and then allegedly lie about their behavior to U.S. immigration officials — are not welcome here.”

Prosecutors are accusing Viliena of lying to get a US visa by hiding his violent past.

His visa application required him to confirm that he had not “ordered, carried out or materially assisted in extrajudicial and political executions” in Haiti. Viliena is said to have ticked the box saying he hadn’t and later swore before a consular officer that his statements about the application were correct, something prosecutors deny.

Instead, they link him to a campaign of persecution orchestrated by Korega, a political group in Haiti accused of using threats and violence to advance its interests and candidates.

During his tenure as mayor, from about 2006 to 2010, prosecutors said Viliena “personally guided” armed groups and Korega militiamen to enforce his policies and suppress any opposition.

Prosecutors’ statement on Wednesday outlines two incidents — the first around July 2007, when a witness spoke out in court about an attack on his neighbor and attributed it to Viliena.

That witness, David Boniface, said Viliena threatened him after the trial. “He told me he would deal with me later,” Boniface told news channel WBUR in 2017.

That night, Viliena is said to have led a group of armed assailants to Boniface’s house. But Boniface was not there. Instead, Viliena and his associates seized Boniface’s younger brother, Ecclesiaste, and dragged him into the street where a group of bystanders could see him, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“They shot him in the head and then chopped him up with machetes,” Boniface told WBUR. “Then they used a big rock to smash his head in.”

The second incident outlined in the US Attorney’s Office report began around March 2008, with the establishment of a community radio station in Les Irois.

“Viliena opposed the establishment of the radio station,” the report explains. To shut down the station, the report claims Viliena plotted an attack on the building early next month.

“Viliena distributed firearms to members of the Korega militia, some of whom also carried machetes, pickaxes and sledgehammers,” the report said.

On the day of the attack, a victim was allegedly pistol-whipped and beaten by Viliena. When he tried to flee, Viliena gave the order to shoot and kill him, the report said. The victim’s injuries were so severe that his leg had to be amputated.

Nissandere Martyr, Juders Yseme and David Boniface stand outside a federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 13 (File: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

A second victim identified in the U.S. Attorney’s Office report described being shot in the face on Viliena’s orders, leaving him permanently blind in one eye.

Those two victims, Nissage Martyr and Juders Yseme, later joined Boniface in a civil suit against Viliena in U.S. federal court, under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. That law allows victims to seek damages from foreign officials who are accused of torture and extrajudicial executions, as long as all legal options in their home country are exhausted.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that starting in 2008, Viliena was granted permanent resident status in the US, which he then used to travel back and forth between Haiti.

“That this defendant, a former mayor of Haiti, is suspected of personally perpetrating or ordering the mutilation, injury, humiliation or death of his opponents, and then blatantly deceived our country into seeking refuge here, is not only unacceptable, it’s a crime,” said Rollins, the US attorney.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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