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The Associated Press State & Local Wire
July 7, 2006 Friday 2:28 AM GMT
Ex-Haitian strongman arrested in Long Island mortgage fraud case
�By TOM HAYS, Associated Press Writer
An elusive former strongman from Haiti accused in a federal lawsuit of sanctioning systematic rape to silence dissent has been arrested in a mortgage fraud scheme on Long Island, authorities said Thursday.
Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, 49, who was arrested on Wednesday, was to be arraigned on Friday on charges of grand larceny, forgery and falsifying business records, said Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney. The spokesman did not have the name of Constant’s attorney, and there was no telephone listing for his Queens home.
Prosecutors plan to ask a judge to order Constant held without bail based on his notorious history in his native land, said Moira Feeney, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, which brought the federal suit on behalf of three woman who claimed they were gang-raped in Haiti in the 1990s.
“We’re thrilled that he’s in custody, and we’re also concerned he’s a flight risk,” Feeney said.
An indictment alleges Constant and five co-defendants defrauded a bank out of more than $1 million.
Constant has lived in exile in New York City since slipping into the United States in 1994. He reportedly sometimes stayed at the home of an aunt while working as a mortgage broker.
Federal officials have said that despite a 1995 deportation order, Constant has been allowed to remain in the United States because Haiti’s judicial system has never stabilized enough to ensure he would be treated fairly.
Constant, the 6-foot-4 son of a military officer, emerged as the feared leader of a right-wing paramilitary group, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, or FRAPH, after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s presidency was toppled in 1991. Human rights groups say that between 1991 and 1994, FRAPH terrorized and slaughtered slum-dwellers loyal to Aristide.
Constant once boasted that he was a paid informant for the CIA. He also claimed he had the power of voodoo in him.
In 2000, a Haitian court sentenced Constant to life in prison following his conviction in absentia for a 1994 massacre of Aristide loyalists.
Lawyers for the women who claim they were gang-raped have asked a U.S. District Court judge in the coming weeks to enter a default judgment against Constant because he has ignored the case since being served a complaint in January 2005 and hasn’t even hired a lawyer. A hearing is scheduled next month.