Retired US Army Colonel Charged In Haiti Bribery Scheme

news
YouTube screenshot

He’s an influential Haitian-American who hosted Haitian prime ministers and U.S. lawmakers at his Maryland home and informally advised the U.S. State Department on matters concerning Haiti.


Now Dr. Joseph Baptiste, a retired U.S. Army colonel and practicing dentist, is accused of conspiring to bribe senior Haitian government officials to win support for an $84 million port project in the country’s northern region. And he funneled the $50,000 in bribes through his nonprofit charity meant to help Haiti’s poor, a federal agent said.

Baptiste, 64, was arrested on Tuesday at his home in Maryland after being charged in federal court in Boston with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit money laundering.

Baptiste supposedly cut a plea deal at the end of December 2015 but backed out of it, according to authorities. It’s unclear why the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston waited so long to charge him. He was scheduled to make an initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in federal court in Maryland, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. His attorney, Donald LaRoche, could not be reached for comment.

The case against Baptiste unfolded in Boston, part of a 2014 U.S. government probe into allegations that Haitian-American businessmen had been offering to bribe high-level Haitian government officials in exchange for the ability to do business in Haiti, according to court documents.

According to the criminal complaint, Baptiste solicited bribes from an undercover FBI agent “purportedly to be paid to Haitian government officials” in connection with Haitian infrastructure projects, including a mining project and the construction of an $84 million port in Mole-Saint-Nicolas.

Meeting with the agent in November 2014 in Boston, Baptiste said he could facilitate a meeting with “top-level Haitian government officials” and described how he could steer payments to them by offering to get financing for lawmakers’ pet projects, funneling the money through his Maryland nonprofit. Only part of the donations would be used for the actual projects, the rest going to pay off officials, the complaint said.

“I believe that when Baptiste discussed giving a $100,000 donation to build a school, but spending only $80,000 to build the school, he was giving an example of how to funnel a bribe — the remaining $20,000 — to a government official,” special agent Garett Trombly wrote in support of the criminal complaint.

Baptiste, Trombly said, admitted that a “pay-to-play” system existed in Haiti.

Trombly described other incidents where Baptiste, the chair and founder of the nonprofit, National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians, bragged about his access to top government officials and past bribe payments funneled through his nonprofit to get cellular and power-plant licenses in Haiti.

While Baptiste had a tradition of hosting Haitian dignitaries — and Democrats running for U.S. office — at his home, he might have exaggerated his contacts, access, and role in Haiti’s business environment with federal agents.

The proposal to build a port at Mole-Saint-Nicolas didn’t go anywhere. It was dismissed by then-Haiti Finance Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie in 2014 and also by then-Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe who thought it wasn’t feasible. The criminal complaint doesn’t name the Haitian government official whom Baptiste said he needed to pay in order to ensure the project’s success. Baptiste received $50,000 in wired funds from the FBI to his nonprofit, Trombly said, which he “ultimately used … for personal purposes.”

———

©2017 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

US Marine Corps

The Marine lieutenant colonel who was removed from command of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May is accused of lying to investigators looking into allegations of misconduct, according to a copy of his charge sheet provided to Task & Purpose on Monday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump just can't stop telling stories about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. This time, the president claims Mattis said U.S. troops were so perilously low on ammunition that it would be better to hold off launching a military operation.

"You know, when I came here, three years ago almost, Gen. Mattis told me, 'Sir, we're very low on ammunition,'" Trump recalled on Monday at the White House. "I said, 'That's a horrible thing to say.' I'm not blaming him. I'm not blaming anybody. But that's what he told me because we were in a position with a certain country, I won't say which one; we may have had conflict. And he said to me: 'Sir, if you could, delay it because we're very low on ammunition.'

"And I said: You know what, general, I never want to hear that again from another general," Trump continued. "No president should ever, ever hear that statement: 'We're low on ammunition.'"

Read More Show Less

At least one Air Force base is waging a slow battle against feral hogs — and way, way more than 30-50 of them.

A Texas trapper announced on Monday that his company had removed roughly 1,200 feral hogs from Joint Base San Antonio property at the behest of the service since 2016.

Read More Show Less

In a move that could see President Donald Trump set foot on North Korean soil again, Kim Jong Un has invited the U.S. leader to Pyongyang, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the North's Foreign Ministry said it expected stalled nuclear talks to resume "in a few weeks."

A letter from Kim, the second Trump received from the North Korean leader last month, was passed to the U.S. president during the third week of August and came ahead of the North's launch of short-range projectiles on Sept. 10, the South's Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple people familiar with the matter.

In the letter, Kim expressed his willingness to meet the U.S. leader for another summit — a stance that echoed Trump's own remarks just days earlier.

Read More Show Less

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

On April 14, 2018, two B-1B Lancer bombers fired off payloads of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles against weapons storage plants in western Syria, part of a shock-and-awe response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his citizens that also included strikes from Navy destroyers and submarines.

In all, the two bombers fired 19 JASSMs, successfully eliminating their targets. But the moment would ultimately be one of the last — and certainly most publicized — strategic strikes for the aircraft before operations began to wind down for the entire fleet.

A few months after the Syria strike, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Tim Ray called the bombers back home. Ray had crunched the data, and determined the non-nuclear B-1 was pushing its capabilities limit. Between 2006 and 2016, the B-1 was the sole bomber tasked continuously in the Middle East. The assignment was spread over three Lancer squadrons that spent one year at home, then six month deployed — back and forth for a decade.

The constant deployments broke the B-1 fleet. It's no longer a question of if, but when the Air Force and Congress will send the aircraft to the Boneyard. But Air Force officials are still arguing the B-1 has value to offer, especially since it's all the service really has until newer bombers hit the flight line in the mid-2020s.

Read More Show Less