More details have emerged in the case of Jorge Puello, the self-proclaimed leader of the Dominican Republic’s Sephardic community.
Last week, Salvadoran police accused Puello, who served as legal adviser to 10 Americans jailed in Haiti on suspicion of trying to traffic women and girls out of the earthquake-ravaged country (eight of them were released yesterday), of himself leading a Central American human trafficking ring. When the accusation first surfaced, Puello, a 32-year-old who was born in Yonkers, New York, had already fled to an undisclosed location but insisted that the Salvadoran charge was a simple case of mistaken identity.
That was last week. On Monday, he admitted that he, Jorge Puello, and the man whom El Salvador has an Interpol arrest warrant out on, also named Jorge Puello, are, in fact—yup—the same Jorge Puello. On Tuesday, he further acknowledged that, yes, he is also the Jorge Puello who was indicted in Vermont in 2003 on charges related to (yup again) an alleged immigrant smuggling ring (he managed to get out of Dodge, to Canada, in time to beat the heat).
Oh, plus it turns out he’s not the leader of the Dominican Republic’s Sephardic community, at all. Now, he says he fled the Dominican Republic to Panama; his own mother doesn’t believe that.
Here is where I say that he is innocent until proved guilty. And he does say he is innocent: a misunderstood Good Samaritan, in fact, one who, it seems, did live in Santo Domingo as an Orthodox Jew while trying to play a leadership role within the small group of Jews there. Of course, he was doing all of this under a slightly different name. But nobody’s perfect.
Jorge Puello Charged in U.S. For Immigrant Smuggling [AP/Failed Messiah]
Jorge Puello Was Known to the Dominican Sephardic Community for Four Years [AP/Failed Messiah]
Jorge Puello’s Judaism [Daily Bastardette/Failed Messiah]
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.