He is one of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted fugitives, accused of being a part of a four-man drug ring transporting cocaine into Miami from Port-au-Prince.
Now Jean Ednor Innocent, a former Haiti National Police officer who on Monday tried to pass himself off as a member of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s presidential security detail in the streets of Port-au-Prince, is in U.S. custody after spending 13 years as a fugitive from the law.
Innocent arrived in South Florida Wednesday after being extradited from Haiti, where he was arrested two days earlier by Haiti National Police.
“We’ve been looking for him because he has an international warrant out for his arrest,” said the new head of Haiti’s judicial police., Joany Canéus. “Every time these guys know they have one of these warrants against them, they try to find a way to ... stay out of the spotlight. But every person has their day.”
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For Innocent, that day arrived Monday when cops in the president’s security detail spotted him along the motorcade route to the National Palace dressed as one of them, in camouflage fatigues and an olive-green T-shirt.
“When they looked, they saw him— someone who has been fired from the police, who is no longer an officer. He was armed, wearing the same uniform as them ... along the presidential route,” Canéus said. “They arrested him, entered the palace with him, called [my office] and the government prosecutor.”
It was the second drug-trafficking-related arrest in days, and the second major arrest of someone trying to impersonate a Haiti National Police officer. Last week, Haiti Police Chief Michel-Ange Gédéon personally arrested a government employee who had been passing himself off to journalists and others in the Haitian diaspora in interviews and text messages as the chief.
On Friday, Haiti’s anti-narcotics police arrested six individuals, including two Bahamians, an American and three Haitians, in Môle-Saint-Nicolas after an airplane landed in the coastal city along Haiti’s northwest. No drugs were found aboard the airplane, said Canéus, but they had received information that the group was engaged in drug-trafficking activities in the area and individuals had been waiting for days for the plane’s arrival. The investigation is ongoing and the six remain in police custody.
All the arrests have come despite days of violent anti-government protests in major cities across Haiti. Frustrated and angry Haitians are taking to the streets to demonstrate against corruption and economic mismanagement and to demand the resignation of Moïse.
“The message of the Haiti National Police today is simple and clear: It’s here to guarantee the security of everyone, their property and all public institutions. It will not fail in its mission; where disorder is, it will not ignore it even when preoccupied by other activities,” Canéus said. “It will do what it needs to oversee the protests but there are other units in the police prepared to intervene where need be.”
Known as “Flex,” or “The Comandante,” Innocent was indicted along with three others by a Miami jury in 2006. He was charged with two counts of knowingly and intentionally conspiring to import and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine into the United States. He faces life in prison under each count.
Canéus said he cannot say with certainty if Innocent had been hiding out in Haiti all of this time. During police questioning, Innocent said he had bought the uniform, as well as others found in his car along with several National Identification cards. He said he was in the area because he was getting a cellphone fixed nearby.
“We asked him a lot of questions, but it was clear he was someone who was hiding something,” Canéus said. “How is it that you are armed and you have a bunch of police uniforms in your possession? Why is it at the very moment that the president is passing that you’re along the route?
“This is a man who is very dangerous ... a real troublemaker,” he added.
Sources familiar with Innocent’s history say he was a member of former Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s presidential security detail, who has been on the DEA’s radar since 2004, the same year he was implicated in the burning of a radio station in Port-au-Prince. But just as U.S. agents failed to arrest wanted trafficker and rebel leader Guy Philippe until his 2017 arrest, they also failed in attempts to capture Innocent. Accused of aiding a former Haiti National Police officer who coordinated drug loads into the U.S., Innocent is part of the era when Haiti flourished as a “narco-state,” and Colombian cocaine smugglers would routinely hire local cops to protect their loads flown in on planes that landed at night on dirt roads illuminated with the headlights of police cruisers.
A U.S. crackdown on cocaine smuggling through Haiti has yielded the convictions of more than a dozen drug traffickers, including Haitian senior police officers and a former Haitian senator. Among them: Beaudouin “Jacques” Ketant, a Haitian narco-trafficker who accused former Aristide of turning a blind eye to the cocaine. Ketant, initially sentenced to 27 years in a U.S. prison, was deported to Haiti in 2015 when his term was cut in half after assisting the feds in their investigation.