MIAMI — The rule of thumb in any good investigation is to follow the money. For Haitian police investigating the July 7 assassination of their president, the money trail partially runs through a little-known Ecuadorian emigre and private lender who lives in Broward County.
In the two weeks since the shocking murder of President Jovenel Moise , police in Haiti have repeatedly during news conferences flashed the image of Walter Veintemilla and the name of his company, Worldwide Capital Lending Group. The money for the assassination plot, they’ve alleged, ran through Veintemilla, a Weston resident, and his Miramar-based firm.
The company’s name sounds like it has global reach. But it basically operates as a private party lender, the kind of company that deals with people who can’t easily get a bank loan or who don’t want the scrutiny that comes with one. Veintemilla is a loan broker; he gets private investors to lend their money on the promise of a high rate of return and he takes a cut or commission.
His lawyer, Robert Nicholson, this week fielded a range of questions from a reporting team at the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and the McClatchy Washington Bureau, saying that Veintemilla brokered a loan to fund what he believed to be a plan to replace Haiti’s president, Moise, with an interim leader in a peaceful transition of power.
“My client had nothing to do with the assassination,” said Nicholson, a Fort Lauderdale private attorney and former assistant U.S. attorney. “At no point was there any discussion or suggestion of a plan involving a violent overthrow of the Haitian government or the assassination of the president.”
All of Veintemilla’s company documents pertaining to loans given to people named in the Haitian investigation have been turned over to U.S. federal agencies, said Nicholson, noting that his client had not been interviewed by U.S. law enforcement as of Tuesday.
Veintemilla, he said, did no more than broker two loans to two South Floridians caught up in the monumental events on the island. They are: Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian American doctor from Boynton Beach, who has been arrested and is in custody in Haiti, and Doral-based CTU Security and its president, Antonio “Tony” Intriago, a Venezuelan emigre who is on the radar of Haitian and U.S. investigators but is not in custody.
Veintemilla, 53, left Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and settled in the Miami area with his family when he was a boy. His career has been in South Florida’s private lending field, mostly in the rough-and-tumble world of mortgage lending. Courts show Veintemilla was involved in at least 10 lawsuits since 2006, eight as a defendant and the other two as a plaintiff trying to evict a tenant.
Beyond private lending, Veintemilla also runs an insurance brokerage business, and had forays into foreign exchange and other businesses, according to records on file with the Florida Division of Corporations.
There is nothing in the public record to suggest that Veintemilla had the financial wherewithal to fund a large military-style operation to topple and kill a sitting president. More than 20 people have been arrested in Haiti, the majority of them Colombian commandos who said they were hired by CTU and were living in Haiti from about May until the assassination of the president. The cost of transporting them, feeding and housing them, along with providing training, would likely have run into the millions of dollars.
In fact, days before the assassination, Sanon phoned a confidante to say that his Colombian bodyguards tried to extort him and abandoned him. Days later they were implicated in the assassination, as was Sanon. A Miami Herald story Sunday revealed that the Haitian president desperately tried to get his security detail to his residence, fearing he would meet the fate that ultimately befell him.
Nicholson, the lawyer for the small-time lender, said his client got tangled up in Haitian affairs after providing a loan for an unspecified amount in July 2020 to Intriago and CTU Security. Through Intriago, Veintemilla later met the charismatic Haitian-American Sanon, an evangelical pastor and doctor in Haiti who dreamed of leading his impoverished island to prosperity.
Sanon envisioned himself as a transitional president of the Caribbean nation and had been circulating a petition with signatures of supporters to replace Moise. A copy of Sanon’s proclamation was obtained by the Miami Herald. The signatories include a number of well-known Protestant pastors who deny supporting Sanon’s bid.
As it happened, the same signatories are listed on a May letter sent to an acting assistant secretary of state, Julie Chung. The letter supported Sanon’s desire to lead a transition in Haiti. State Department officials say neither Chung nor anyone else provided any support for Sanon’s aspirations.
The July 2020 loan to Intriago appears to be the connective tissue that brought Veintemilla together with Sanon, now under arrest in Haiti, and the Doral-based Intriago, himself a small-time security trainer and equipment seller who has not been seen nor heard from in public since the first week of July. A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture confirmed that the agency was investigating Intriago, who had a license to provide security and carry a firearm.
Intriago referred Sanon to Worldwide Capital because the Haitian physician was seeking a loan. This introduction led to multiple meetings in South Florida, said Nicholson, regarding funding strategies for two purposes: infrastructure projects in Haiti and Sanon’s political aspirations in Haiti.
Both Veintemilla and Sanon were involved in efforts to help build solar energy and other small power facilities in Haiti, led by a U.S. company, according to Nicholson. The first project was to be in Jacmel, according to a proposed contract obtained by the Herald. That city is important because it is the hometown of another Haitian American in Broward County arrested in Haiti, 35-year-old James Solages.
Until quitting in April, Solages was a maintenance director in Lantana at a ritzy senior-living center. But he had aspirations of becoming the mayor of Jacmel, even running a small charity focused on the coastal city. A photo displayed by Haitian authorities shows Solages present for some of the meetings with Sanon, Veintemilla and others who listened to his plans for a new Haiti.
Nicholson said that both Veintemilla and Sanon were passionate about helping the Haitian people and bringing infrastructure projects to poor areas of the country lacking power, water and other basic needs. It was Sanon who brought the infrastructure opportunity in Haiti to Veintemilla’s attention, Nicholson said.
At the same time, Veintemilla also learned more about Sanon’s political goal to replace Moise as an interim president and modernize the country. Veintemilla, Intriago and others met with Sanon on multiple occasions, including meetings this spring: one gathering on May 12 at the Tower Club in Fort Lauderdale, which overlooks the city’s skyline and the Atlantic Ocean, and another gathering at an office building in Doral.
Photos taken at the May 12 meeting showing Veintemilla providing a PowerPoint presentation are now used by Haitian police in describing the Weston man as a person of interest.
Sanon’s political plan called for a security team to protect him in his quest to replace the Haitian president and to hire Intriago’s CTU firm to train the members. Other expenses included the Haitian physician’s travel and related costs. The proposed budget was a whopping $860,000.
Calling that amount a “wish list,” Nicholson said that Veintemilla’s role was to finance most of the expenses by putting together a group of investors. Veintemilla raised $172,000 from those investors, according to his lawyer. Those investors, all from the United States, were not told of the nature of the investment for the loan, he said. Veintemilla did not put in any of his own money, he added.
Separately, Intriago was also supposed to come up with some funding for Sanon’s security effort. It is not clear how much money was raised by Intriago or from whom. The overall plan called for Sanon to pay back the lenders and investors with Haitian assets after the physician took over as interim president.
Veintemillia believed, perhaps naively, that the entire political effort led by Sanon was meant to be a peaceful transition of power in Haiti, Nicholson said.
“Neither Worldwide Capital nor Mr. Veintemilla had knowledge of any alleged assassination plot,” Nicholson told the Herald. “The discussions that took place with Dr. Sanon all related to seeking to improve the living conditions in Haiti through public works projects and improving the political, safety and social conditions in Haiti.”
———©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.