Figure in Haiti quake kidnapping case gets prison

A man who acted as an adviser to a group of missionaries charged with taking children out of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake is going to federal prison after being convicted of smuggling immigrants into the United States through unguarded back roads in Vermont.

Jorge Torres, 33, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Burlington to three years and one month in prison on charges that dated to 2002.

"I want to change. I want to be a different person," Torres said during a sentencing hearing before Judge William Sessions.

Torres eluded federal authorities from 2004 until last year when he was arrested in the Dominican Republican and brought back to the United States last September.

Torres was born in New York and has dual citizenship between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.

He became the target of an international manhunt after being identified as a man wanted in the U.S. and in El Salvador, where he allegedly led a prostitution ring. Prosecutors say Torres disappeared after being put on supervised release following a 1999 federal fraud conviction in Pennsylvania.

The Vermont case dates to 2002, when he allegedly organized illegal border crossings in which illegal immigrants from Costa Rica and other Central and South American nations were driven across the U.S.-Canada border at unguarded rural locations.

He moved to Canada and took the name George Simard before he was indicted in Vermont in 2003. The U.S. started proceedings to extradite him from Canada, but he fled again and his whereabouts were unknown until he surfaced in Haiti.

After the Haiti earthquake Torres acted as a lawyer and spokesman for 10 Baptists from Idaho who were detained on child kidnapping charges. The missionaries were later released.

The Burlington Free Press says Torres will receive credit for time served in Canada, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. He likely will be released from jail in about eight months.


Information from: The Burlington Free Press,