Pleading Guilty, Guy Philippe Cuts Deal with U.S. Attorney for Lighter Sentence

by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Haitian paramilitary leader and Senator-elect Guy Philippe sealed a plea
bargain today with the U.S. Attorney’s office to get a lighter sentence in
return for pleading guilty to just one count of money laundering.

In return,
the U.S. government dropped its other two charges of “Conspiracy to Import
Cocaine into the United States,” which carries a sentence of 30 years to life
in prison, and “Engaging in Transactions Derived from Unlawful Activity,” which
carries a 10 year sentence.

The charge
to which Philippe, 49, pleaded guilty – “Conspiracy to Launder Monetary
Instruments” – carries a 20 year maximum sentence, but as part of the deal,
prosecutors recommended Philippe be sentenced to only nine years.

Cecilia Altonaga will set Philippe’s sentence in Miami on Jul. 5, 2017 at 8:30
a.m.. As in most plea deals, she will likely follow the U.S. Attorney’s

cannot be granted in federal cases, but the government can give Philippe a 15%
reduction in his prison term for “good conduct,” meaning he could be out in
seven and a half years or 2024.

The hearing
to change Philippe’s Jan. 13 plea of “not guilty” took place in Miami on Mon.,
Apr. 24 at 2:30 p.m. and took all of 21 minutes. In addition to the defendant,
in attendance were lawyers Mark A. Irish, Lynn M. Kirkpatrick, and Andy Camacho
for the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Alan Shelley Ross and Zeljka Bozanic
representing Philippe.

“We got a
call from the U.S. Attorney’s office quite recently, proposing a plea bargain,”
said Ross. “We were prepared to go to trial, but if you go to trial and you
lose, you get whacked.”

Cecilia Altonaga will set Philippe’s sentence in Miami on Jul. 5, 2017 at 8:30
a.m.. As in most plea deals, she will likely follow the U.S. Attorney’s

In March,
Judge Altonaga rejected acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg’s motion in
limine to bar evidence that might show that the money Philippe laundered came
from “the United States government or people authorized to work on behalf of
the United States.”

Asked why
the government had initiated a deal, the U.S. Attorney’s Special Counsel Sarah
Schall told Haïti Liberté “the government won’t comment on plea negotiations.”

Asked if
Altonaga’s March ruling could have motivated the U.S. government to make a
deal, Mr. Ross was noncommittal. “It’s difficult to say,” he said. “They
understood, as everyone did, my client’s history of participating in the coup
against Aristide, in which the U.S. had a role. It has been discussed as part
of this case, and there may have been concern that things might leak out that
they didn’t want.”

But Ross
suspected that “the age of the case played an important part in their decision”
to make a deal because “the case is old – dating back to 1999 to 2003. It’s
difficult to remount the effort because some people who were in jail are no
longer in jail, and it’s difficult to get certain records and witnesses.”

“I don’t
care what the motive is,” Ross concluded. “I just care about the result.”

To get the
deal, Philippe had to agree to the U.S. government’s account of the crime that
he committed, known as the “factual proffer,” a copy of which has been obtained
by Haïti Liberté.

In the
two-page document, signed by Philippe and his lawyers, he agrees to have
“knowingly used his position as a high-ranking Haitian National Police officer
to provide protection for [the] shipments of drugs and drug proceeds into Haiti
in exchange for cash payments. Specifically, beginning in or around June 1999
and continuing until in or around April 2003, Philippe and others were paid in
Haiti from the proceeds of the cocaine sales that occurred in Miami, Florida
and elsewhere in the United States. Those bulk-cash proceeds would be smuggled
from the United States to Haiti, and Philippe would be paid a portion of the

further admits that he “and his wife maintained a joint banking account at
First Union National Bank in Miami, Florida. Between June 1999 and December
2002, Philippe knowingly wired over $376,000 in U.S. Dollars derived from the
sale of cocaine from Haiti and Ecuador to this First Union National Bank
account under the names of other people. Philippe also knowingly arranged for
over $70,000 in U .S. Dollars of drug proceeds to be deposited into the account.
Each of these cash deposits was made in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid the
reporting requirements.”

further agrees that between June 1999 and April 2003, as he was waging war
against former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government, he received
between $1.5 to $3.5 million “in bribe payments from drug traffickers, knowing
that the payments constituted proceeds of cocaine trafficking.”

He then
“shared the drug proceeds he collected with Haitian National Police officials
and other security personnel to ensure their continued support for future drug
shipments arriving into Haiti, to purchase a residence in Broward County,
Florida, and to support himself and his family in the United States.”

In the plea
agreement between the U.S. and Philippe, it is stipulated that “the Court may
impose a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of up to 20 years, followed by
a term of supervised release of up to 3 years” as well as “a fine of up to
$500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transactions,
whichever is greater, and may order forfeiture and restitution.”

From 2001
to 2004, Guy Philippe led the Front for National Liberation and Reconstruction
(FLRN), a force of a few hundred paramilitary “rebels” mostly based in the
Dominican Republic, in cross border raids against Aristide’s government, which
was finally overthrown, with the help of a U.S. SEAL team, in a Feb. 29, 2004

In November
2005, a U.S. grand jury issued a three count indictment against Philippe for
drug trafficking and money laundering, but he holed up in the remote Haitian
coastal town of Pestel, where he eluded four raids by U.S. and Haitian agents
over the course of 11 years.

After a
deadly May 2016 attack on a Haitian police station in Les Cayes, the government
of interim President Jocelerme Privert put out an arrest warrant for Philippe,
who was accused of masterminding the raid. The warrant provoked several radio
and internet tirades by Philippe, daring the Haitian police to come and arrest
him in his stronghold.

After being
elected Senator for the Grand’Anse department in November 2016, Philippe felt
cocky enough to make a victory tour to Port-au-Prince in early January 2017. A
special Haitian police unit, with back-up from U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
(DEA), was monitoring his movements and arrested him outside a radio station in
the capital on Jan. 5. The same day, the Haitian police turned Philippe over to
U.S. agents who flew him to Miami.