For Immediate Release
“King” of Violent Haitian Gang Pleads Guilty to Gun Smuggling and Money Laundering After Government’s Case
“Queen” of the Gang Pleaded Guilty on Eve of Trial; Both Face up to Life in Prison
WASHINGTON — Joly Germine, 31, of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, the self-described “King” of a notoriously violent Haitian gang known as 400 Mawozo, pleaded guilty today to his role in a gunrunning conspiracy that smuggled firearms to Haiti in violation of U.S. export laws, and the laundering of ransoms paid for U.S. hostages to the gang in 2021. The conspiracy resulted in the purchase in the U.S. of at least 24 firearms, including AK-47s, AR-15s, an M4 Carbine rifle, an M1A rifle and a .50 caliber rifle, described by the ATF as a military weapon, which were smuggled from the U.S. to the gang in Haiti for their criminal activities. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves; Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen; and FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI Miami Field Office. Co-defendant Eliande Tunis, 45, of Pompano Beach, Florida, pled guilty on Jan. 17 to the same offenses.
The plea came at the end of the government’s case during trial, after the twenty-four witnesses and two weeks of evidence. Germine, a Haitian national, pled guilty in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before Judge John D. Bates to the 48-count second superseding indictment. The indictment charged Germine with conspiring to violate U.S. export control laws and to defraud the U.S., violating export control laws, smuggling, and laundering the proceeds of ransoms paid to free U.S. hostages taken by the gang and laundering money to promote his crimes. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 15.
Germine’s co-defendant and former girlfriend Tunis, who styled herself as his “wife” and was described at trial as the “Queen”, pled guilty on the eve of trial on Jan. 17 to the same 48-count indictment. She also faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced on May 8. Another co-defendant, Jocelyn Dor, age 31, who acted as a straw gun purchaser for Germine and Tunis, previously pled guilty on Oct. 30, 2023, and will be sentenced on Feb. 28.
“Violent gangs have ravaged Haiti, and, all too often, Americans in Haiti have been targets of their violence,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “These two defendants not only helped lead a prominent violent gang in Haiti, but they were also intimately involved in arming the gang and laundering ransom proceeds the gang obtained from kidnapping Americans. Preventing them from illegally shipping anymore firearms or laundering the proceeds of kidnappings strikes a critical blow against the gang they once led.”
“Violent, well-armed gangs pose an ongoing threat to U.S. Citizens who live in or travel to Haiti,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri, of the Miami Field Office. “As Joly Germine and Eliande Tunis have just learned, the FBI is dedicated to disrupting and dismantling gangs who undertake hostage-taking of U.S. Citizens anywhere. This includes taking away their ability to wreak violence on the innocent using smuggled firearms.”
According to the evidence the government presented at trial, from at least March through November 2021, Germine, Tunis, and two co-defendants conspired with each other and with other gang members in Haiti to acquire and supply firearms to the 400 Mawozo gang in Haiti. Germine directed the gang’s operations from a Haitian prison using unmonitored cell phones, including directing gang members in Haiti to transfer money to Tunis and others in the U.S. for the purpose of obtaining firearms for the gang. Germine then provided Tunis and the two other U.S.-based co-defendants, all Florida residents, specifications for firearms and ammunition that Germine and other gang leaders wanted sent to Haiti. Tunis and the two co-defendants then purchased at least 24 rifles, handguns and a shotgun at Florida gun shops while falsely stating that they were the “actual buyers” of the firearms, when they were in fact acting as straw purchasers for Germine. In approximately May 2021, Tunis smuggled firearms and ammunition to Haiti in containers disguised as food and household goods. In October 2021, Tunis shipped additional firearms and ammunition to Haiti, again by smuggling the firearms, but those firearms were seized by the FBI before they left the U.S.
400 Mawozo is a violent Haitian gang that operated in the Croix-des-Bouquets area to the east of the capital, Port-au-Prince. From at least Jan. 12, 2020, 400 Mawozo was engaged in armed hostage takings of U.S. citizens in Haiti for ransom. The victims have generally been forced from their vehicles at gunpoint and kept in various locations by armed gang members while their relatives and colleagues negotiate payment for their release. At trial, the government presented evidence that the gang received ransom payments from the hostage taking of three U.S. citizens in the summer of 2021, who testified at trial, and the cash ransom proceeds were commingled with the gangs’ funds and transferred via MoneyGram and Western Union from the U.S. to Haiti to buy more firearms. In the fall of 2021, the 400 Mawozo gang claimed responsibility for taking 16 U.S. citizens hostage, including five children and one Canadian citizen who were part of a missionary organization visiting an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The gang demanded a ransom of $l million for each hostage. The hostages escaped on or about Dec.16, 2021. This case does not address those hostage taking charges, for which Germine has been separately indicted in Case No. 22-cr-161 (DDC).
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Field Office, with assistance the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement. Valuable assistance was provided by the Haitian National Police; the government of Haiti; the FBI’s Washington Field Office; the U.S. Marshal’s Service; the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs; the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida’s Special Prosecutions Section.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen P. Seifert and Kimberly Paschall and Paralegal Specialist Jorge Casillas of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Beau Barnes of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division.