Former Haiti mayor arrested for visa fraud a day after U.S. court ordered him to pay $15.5M

Francis Akhalbey March 23, 2023
Jean Morose Viliena is accused of committing violent attacks in his native Haiti -- Photo Credit: YouTube/VOA KREYÒL

Jean Morose Viliena, the former Haitian mayor who was ordered by a U.S. court to pay $15.5 million to political rivals he allegedly persecuted, was on Wednesday arrested for visa fraud, the Department of Justice announced.

According to Al Jazeera, Viliena’s arrest, in connection with the visa fraud allegations, came a day after a court ordered him to pay the aforementioned fine. Viliena has been a permanent resident in the United States since 2008, but authorities said he lied about his alleged violent history in his visa application form. Viliena had also been going to and fro Haiti.

“Today’s indictment recounts horrific violence Viliena is alleged to have committed against the people of Haiti, both through armed groups he directed, and by his own hand,” Michael J. Krol, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England, said. 

“He’s alleged to have lied about this violent past, evading the consequences of his actions and beginning a life here in Massachusetts. With today’s indictment and arrest, Viliena is finally facing federal criminal charges for his lies.”

The 50-year-old is said to have committed violent crimes during his time as mayor of the Haitian commune of Les Irois. “Our nation offers protection, assistance, and asylum to those who are persecuted,” US Attorney Rachael Rollins said. “People that perpetrate acts of violence and harm in their countries — and then allegedly lie about their conduct to US immigration officials — are not welcome here.”

Prosecutors said Viliena in his visa application was supposed to state whether or not he had “ordered, carried out or materially assisted in extrajudicial and political killings” in Haiti. He allegedly denied committing those crimes and later “swore to, or affirmed, before a U.S. Consular Officer that the contents of the application were true and signed the application.” But prosecutors said he lied.

Viliena allegedly committed violent crimes through a Haitian political group known as Korega. The group allegedly advances its interests and that of its candidates through threats and violence.

He served as mayor of Les Irois from 2006 to 2010. During his tenure, prosecutors said he “personally supervised his mayoral staff and security detail, and led an armed group in Les Irois aligned with Korega.”

“Under Viliena’s direct supervision, the Korega militia enforced Viliena’s policies by various means, including targeting political opponents in Les Irois through armed violence,” the statement added.

Officials also cited instances where Viliena violently attacked people. One of them was a 2007 testimony from a witness whose neighbor, the former mayor, is accused of arranging his attack. In 2017, the witness, identified as David Boniface, claimed in an interview that he was threatened by Viliena after a court session, per Al Jazeera. “He told me he would deal with me later,” Boniface told WBUR.

Boniface said Viliena, together with a group of armed people, came to his home that night, and though he was nowhere to be found, the former mayor and the assailants dragged his brother to the street and killed him.

“They shot him in the head and afterward, sliced him up with machetes,” Boniface told WBUR. “Then they used a big rock to smash his head.”

Boniface and two other victims filed a civil lawsuit against Viliena under the United States’ Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991. Per the law, victims can file lawsuits in the United States against people who allegedly committed torture and extrajudicial killings – provided attempts to seek justice in their home countries proved futile. 

“That this defendant, a former mayor in Haiti, is alleged to have personally committed or ordered the maiming, harm, humiliation or death of his adversaries and then blatantly deceived our country to seek refuge here is not only unacceptable, it is a crime,” Rollins said.

Viliena faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: March 23, 2023


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