Two Haitian-Americans with ties to South Florida — including one who previously worked as a bodyguard at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti — are among the 28 alleged assassins of President Jovenel Moïse, officials announced Thursday.
James Solages, 35, and Vincent Joseph, 55, allegedly took part in the brazen attack on the Haitian leader, who was reportedly shot a dozen times at his Port-au-Prince home on Wednesday, officials said. His wife, Martine, was critically wounded.
The two men were paraded along with 15 other suspects, all Colombia nationals, in front of journalists during a press conference late Thursday. In all, the hit squad comprised 28 gunmen, including 26 Colombians, officials said.
Despite the Haitian authorities’ display of the American suspects, who sat near two tables filled with firearms, machetes, bulletproof vests and cell phones, their alleged involvement in the deadly plot was shrouded in mystery.
It was unclear why the Haitian government believes they were involved, how long they had been in the country, how and when they got there, or even what their motive was, the Miami Herald reported.
US officials said they are aware of the accusations against American citizens, but could not comment about the allegations due to privacy concerns, according to the newspaper.
It was confirmed late Thursday that Solages had once worked for a company that contracted to provide security for the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince, the Herald reported.
“We are aware of allegations implicating an individual who was briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard by a security company hired by Global Affairs Canada in 2010,” a government official told the paper on condition of anonymity because of the volatile situation in Haiti.
Solages, who lived in Tamarac, a Florida city in the Fort Lauderdale area, does not have a criminal record, according to the Herald, which cited divorce proceedings in the US but no other legal matters.
His aunt, Victorie Dorisme, told the paper that she learned about the allegations against him from Haitian TV — and is puzzled about how the South Florida maintenance worker became a suspected international assassin.
“I’ve never heard of him in any trouble like this,” Dorisme told the Herald, adding that Solages had his mail forwarded to her address while changing homes because of his divorce.
She said he divided his time between his job as a building maintenance worker and running a small charity.
Solages described himself on his charity website as a “certified diplomatic agent” and former bodyguard for the Canadian Embassy in Haiti — but that website appears to have stopped working, the paper reported, adding that calls and emails to the charity were not returned.
In a statement, Canada’s foreign relations department did not refer to Solages by name but said one of the men detained in the assassination had been “briefly employed as a reserve bodyguard” at its embassy by a private contractor.
Solages’ Facebook page, now taken down, said he attended Fort Lauderdale High School, according to the news outlet.
Between 2015 and 2018, he went on to study at Atlantic Technical College in Coconut Creek and later Florida Career College, where he said he earned an associate degree in information technology, the Herald said, citing his social media page.
Solages — who said he is originally from the port town of Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast — had a Florida-registered business called FWA SA A JACMEL AVAN INC, which he described on LinkedIn as an economic empowerment charity, according to the paper.
He also has a business — EJS Maintenance & Repair LLC — with two other Haitian men, who also are affiliated with the charity, the Herald said, citing Florida corporate records. His LinkedIn page also describes him as the CEO of the remodeling company.
“Experienced building engineer specialize in infrastructure, Equipment, HAVC, Painting with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry,” he wrote on his LinkedIn page.
“Skilled in Customer Service, Strategic Planning, budgeting, Team Building, Leadership, Public Speaking, and Training,” he added.
He listed Spanish, English, French and Haitian Creole as languages he speaks. His Facebook page recently showed him wearing a business suit, and he posted some images of armored vehicles, the paper reported.
The LinkedIn page now lists him as a plant operations manager in Lantana, about 40 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, for a company called Senior Lifestyle, which runs senior communities nationwide.
In Lantana, it operates the Carlisle Palm Beach, which describes itself as “an upscale resort-style senior living option.” Workers there declined to tell the Herald whether Solages is employed there.
Meanwhile, virtually nothing is known about Joseph, who Haitian authorities said lives in or at one time lived in Miami.