A federal jury has found a former U.S. Marine guilty on multiple counts of attempting to illegally smuggle guns from the U.S. to Haiti. The Justice Department said there is evidence the man, who was an active duty Marine at the time, intended to train the Haitian Army "in order to engage in foreign armed conflict."
Jacques Yves Sebastien Duroseau, 34, a Haitian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was found guilty Thursday after a three-day trial.
He was convicted of five counts and a Justice Department spokesperson told NPR that Duroseau is scheduled to be sentenced during the March 2021 term. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"The Defendant's conduct here violated our firearms laws, particularly in relation to export and licensing, but it additionally posed concerns about our citizens unliterally acting in relation to the government of a foreign country," Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said in a news release.
"Such conduct will not be tolerated," he added.
A plan to smuggle arms
Court documents show Duroseau contacted an unnamed person in Haiti in April 2019 to discuss the idea of him moving back to the Caribbean nation to "train the Haitian police, and run for president of Haiti."
Duroseau was an active duty Marine who had attained the rank of sergeant when his plan to smuggle arms was put into action, the Justice officials said.
He once served as a marksman instructor on the firing ranges of the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va.
Prosecutors say he boarded an American Airlines flight on Nov. 11, 2019, Veterans Day, traveling from New Bern, N.C., with a final destination of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
He and the co-conspirator each checked three suitcases and three plastic boxes containing firearms, according to court documents.
Officials said all told, the plastic containers included eight firearms including a Ruger model Precision Rifle 300WIN MAG as well as a Spikes Tactical model ST15. There were also "copious ammunition, riflescopes and body armor" a statement for the Justice Department said.
Further court documents say he did not have permission from Marines to leave the United States nor permission to export firearms.
The scheme begins to unravel
Duroseau was able to travel through Charlotte and Miami before arriving in Haiti the next day, The Charlotte Observer reports.
The paper notes the plan was for him to him meet someone once he touched down in Haiti that would help expedite his passage through that nation's customs process.
But the plan began to unravel, The Observer reports, when Duroseau became angered that a customs official pressed him to fill out a declaration form, "resulting in an altercation with a Haitian police officer."
The Miami Herald reports that Haitian customs agents grew suspicious when Duroseau arrived with long cases, typically an indication that firearms are inside.
"He didn't want us to touch the boxes. He said his stuff will not go through a scanner," an unnamed agent told The Herald last year. The paper notes the agent requested to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak with the media.
Investigators later discovered a colonel uniform his bag when he was arrested at Toussaint Louverture International Airport, according to the indictment. One of the charges Duroseau was facing was impersonating a high-ranking military officer, but he was found not guilty.
He always wanted to be a Marine
A 2016 profile on Duroseau on the Marines.mil, the official website for that branch of the armed forces, described him as someone who "persevered and reached his goal of becoming a Marine despite his challenges."
"When I was a kid, I saw the marines back home [because] we had a little war going on, that was the first time I saw them and I hope to be one of them," Duroseau is quoted as saying.
"Since that day I had it in the back of my head where I wanted to be a U.S. Marine.
The article notes that he finished high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2006, the moved back home to Haiti. He was home when a 7.0 devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean nation, leaving roughly 220,000 dead and 300,000 injured in January 2010.
Duroseau's trial began this week and by Thursday, the jury reached its verdict.
The federal jury found him guilty on five counts, including knowingly conspiring to commit offenses against the U.S. and willfully exporting or attempting to export firearms from the U.S. without first obtaining a license.
You can read the Duroseau's verdict form here.