Haitian Gang Leader Charged With Hostage Taking That Resulted in Death of US Citizen

WASHINGTON, DC – United States law enforcement authorities have filed an indictment charging Vitel’homme Innocent, a Haitian national and leader of the Kraze Barye gang, for his alleged role in the October 2022 armed hostage taking, in Haiti, of two United States citizens, one of whom was killed during the event.

hommehaVitel’homme InnocentInnocent remains at large and is believed to reside in Tabarre, Haiti. He faces additional charges in the District of Columbia related to his role in the kidnapping of 16 US citizens late 2021, for which he was indicted.

The US State Department  had late last year announced a reward of up to one million US dollars for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Vitel’homme Innocent. The reward is being offered under the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Programme.

According to the indictment, which was filed in the District of Columbia and unsealed on Tuesday, Innocent and the Kraze Barye gang operate in the Ouest department of Haiti to include Delmas, Torcelle, and Tabarre.  It said the gang actively participates in kidnappings for ransom, extortion, and car thefts.

According to the indictment, Innocent ordered gang members to kidnap Jean Franklin and Marie Odette Franklin from their home in Haiti on October 7, 2022.

The armed gang members forced entry into the Franklin residence and attempted to kidnap the couple by force. During the kidnapping, Marie Odette Franklin was shot and killed by the gang members. Her husband was taken into captivity and held at an undisclosed location in Haiti.

The US said that while Jean Franklin was in captivity, Innocent participated in ransom negotiations in exchange for Jean Franklin’s release.  He was released from captivity on October 28, 2022, following ransom payments made to the gang on behalf of his family.

“As alleged in the indictment, Vitel’homme Innocent, a leader of the Kraze Barye gang in Haiti, directed gang members to kidnap two American citizens for ransom, ultimately resulting in the death of one of the victims,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

“The Justice Department is vigorously pursuing those who harm or endanger Americans living in Haiti.”

US attorney Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia, said “we remain steadfast in our mission to hold those responsible for violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens in Haiti.

“The gangs and gang leaders in Haiti must be held accountable for their atrocities committed against innocent civilians. We will utilize all methods at our disposal to apprehend and prosecute those who commit such heinous acts.”

Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI Miami Field Office said the indictment  demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads and to work towards the leaders of criminal plots wherever they are.

“Neither time nor distance will weaken our resolve. We will use all tools available and go to the farthest reaches of the globe to bring to justice those who seek to harm Americans.”

If convicted, Innocent faces a maximum penalty of life in prison or could face the death penalty. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.