Dominicans send Haiti missionaries' adviser to US

Published September 14, 2010

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – A former adviser for American missionaries accused of taking children out of Haiti has been extradited to the United States in an illegal immigrant smuggling case, officials said Tuesday.

Jorge Puello was flown Monday from the Dominican Republic to Vermont in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, said Bill Gerke, chief deputy marshal in Burlington, Vermont.

Puello attracted attention in February when he acted as a lawyer and spokesman for 10 Baptists, mostly from Idaho, who were detained in Haiti on child kidnapping charges after the earthquake.

He became the target of an international manhunt after he was identified as a man wanted in the U.S. and El Salvador, where authorities allege he led a prostitution ring. The 32-year-old was arrested in March in the Dominican capital, Santo Domingo, at the request of the United States.

Puello faces U.S. charges in Vermont for allegedly smuggling illegal immigrants through Canada. He remains in custody in the Burlington area while awaiting a court hearing scheduled for Friday, Gerke said.

Puello, who was born in New York and holds dual U.S.-Dominican citizenship, has said he is innocent of all accusations.

The charges are not related to his involvement with the 10 U.S. Baptists who were detained in Haiti on child-kidnapping charges in February. He initially provided them with food, medicine and legal assistance but was later accused of absconding with $30,000 in legal fees meant for another lawyer.

All the missionaries have been released from a Haitian jail and returned to the U.S.

Written by EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ, Associated Press Writer

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