Saturday, February 13, 2010


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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