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Retired US Army Colonel Charged in Haitian Bribery Scheme

  • Associated Press

FILE - A federal law enforcement vehicle sits in front of the United State Courthouse in Baltimore.

A retired U.S. Army colonel was charged Tuesday with conspiring to bribe Haitian government officials in connection with an $84 million port development project in the impoverished island nation.

Joseph Baptiste, 64, of Fulton, Maryland, was charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit money laundering, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston announced.

Baptiste, a dentist and a U.S. citizen, was scheduled for an initial appearance in federal court in Maryland later Tuesday.

His attorney, Woodbridge, Virginia-based Donald LaRoche, did not immediately respond to telephone messages left at his office.

Prosecutors say Baptiste's arrest stems from a federal investigation started in 2014 into Haitian-American businessmen offering to facilitate bribes to Haitian government officials in exchange for the ability to obtain or retain business in the Caribbean nation.

Baptiste solicited bribes from undercover FBI agents during several recorded meetings in Boston and said he could launder the bribes through a nonprofit he controlled that was meant to help the people of Haiti, authorities said.

According to an FBI affidavit, the undercover agent asked if a "pay-to-play'' system existed in Haiti.

"I would say this, like, we're tipping them to do the right thing," Baptiste replied, according to court documents.

In another telephone conversation, an undercover agent asked how much of a $25,000 payment wired to Baptiste's nonprofit needed to go to a Haitian government official to secure that official's support for the port project.

"I would say all of it," Baptiste replied, according to court documents.

Baptiste served as an Army dentist from 1995 until 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile. He served four years as a staff dental surgeon at Walson Army Hospital Center in New Jersey, served in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and was chief of dental services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to his profile.

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