The Rise and Fall of Haitian Drug Lord Jacques Ketant

It was supposed to be easy. Edouard Rene Joseph was a combat vet, Desert Storm, so he had trimmed the situation down to simple mission objectives: Get into the country, pick up the kids, leave the country. One day, tops. No big deal. "It's not," he would muse years later, "like you're trying to take prisoners out of Saigon."

Joseph's mother, Claudie Adam, had asked him to go to Haiti to help his sister Sibylle retrieve her children from their estranged father, who was refusing to send them back to Miami after a visit. Joseph couldn't say no. Buried under his burly frame — tall with wide shoulders ending in fists that didn't mind a fight and topped with a friendly face that could deflate quickly into a hard stare — was a devoted son. The 26-year-old tossed aside the law-school exam books he'd been studying and hopped on a plane.

In country on February 10, 1997, Joseph and his sister easily found the 6-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl at school. They grabbed the kids, then headed to the airport for an afternoon flight back to Miami. But before they arrived, Joseph and Sibylle learned from family friends that Haitian police officers were at the gates, ready to seize the children. They considered driving 60 miles, crossing into the Dominican Republic, and flying out from there. But they got word that border police were waiting there too.

"Haiti is a small country," Joseph says. "Everyone knows who to call to find out things. And that's what the word was we were getting: There are pictures [of the children] everywhere; there are police officers who had been paid off."

This is what happens when an estranged husband is a cocaine trafficker with his hands on the country's levers of power.

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Desperate, Joseph and his sister went to the U.S. embassy. But officials there offered no help, he says. A custody spat had blown up into a national incident, and they were stuck.

This is what happens when an estranged husband is a cocaine trafficker with his hands on the country's levers of power.

Sibylle's husband was Beaudoin "Jacques" Ketant, then 33 years old and responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilos of cocaine annually into the United States. A year earlier, Ketant had evaded arrest in New York by slipping onto a Haiti-bound flight disguised as a woman. Now, U.S. authorities were preparing to hit him with an indictment for cocaine trafficking and money laundering. But on his home turf — a country infected like a bad molar with narcotics — Ketant was untouchable, as Joseph was finding out.

Joseph, believing he had done all he could, decided he would return to New York the next day. But that night, before his flight, his phone buzzed with a call that jerked his whole world out of place. His mother had been gunned down in Miami. Joseph's mind darted to his bullying, power-mad brother-in-law.

For nearly 20 years now, the question of who killed Claudie Adam has taken a back seat to Ketant's rise and fall. The trafficker ascended the drug game like a rocket in the 1990s, when Haiti was sandbagged by one corrupt government after another. According to court documents, affidavits, witness testimony, and published reports, the smuggler cut deals with cartels, partnered with military juntas, and got so close to politicians that he was feted at the National Palace. At the height of his power, Ketant was making $13 million a year in illegal drug runs and amassing "Midas-like quantities of material assets," in the words of prosecutors. Although his name won't make it into the country's official history books, Ketant arguably shaped contemporary Haiti as much as any other public figure.

The influence continued after Ketant was taken into U.S. custody in 2004 and sentenced to 27 years in federal prison. The trafficker's second act was as a star witness, tossing dozens of former co-conspirators, including corrupt politicians and policemen, into the open jaws of U.S. prosecutors. Because he cooperated, this April, a federal judge cut Ketant's sentence in half. By the expedient logic of the drug war, Ketant had earned enough points to cancel out his bad acts. He was released from federal prison and is currently in the custody of U.S. Immigration. He is asking to stay in the United States, claiming he will likely be killed if he returns to his home country.

This infuriates Edouard Joseph, whose ears are still ringing with gunshots that tore through his family. He still has questions that need answers — and so do Miami-Dade cold-case investigators, who hint that they are making headway in the investigation into Claudie Adam's murder.

"It doesn't take a genius," Joseph says, "to realize somebody who is responsible for the murder of your mother, them getting out of jail — and not having their head put on a stick — is not something you're happy about."

It was thanks to Pablo Escobar that Haiti secured its place on the underground conveyor belt feeding Colombian cocaine to the United States. As federal court documents describe, in the late 1980s, the infamous, pot-bellied head of Colombia's Medellín cartel was casting his eye around the Caribbean looking for a route through which he could pass some product. Escobar then controlled 80 percent of the world cocaine market, and his business was making $60 million a day. He needed a way station with the right mix of political instability, biblical poverty, and bribe-hungry officials.

Haiti then was the hottest geopolitical mess in the hemisphere. François "Papa Doc" Duval­ier, a doctor and self-described voodoo priest, had served as "President for Life" from 1957 to 1971, during which time 30,000 Haitians were killed and more exiled as the dictator clung to power. His son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, took over at age 19 and lived lavishly while his country spiraled downward; he was ousted in a popular uprising in 1986.

Escobar sent minions into the power vacuum. By 1987, bribed Haitian officials had built and monitored an airstrip outside Port-au-Prince for kilo-loaded planes. The cartel was working directly with Lt. Col. Joseph-Michel François, a career soldier nicknamed "Sweet Micky." In 1987 alone, François safeguarded 70,000 pounds of Escobar's nose candy through Haiti to America. For this, he earned a reported $4 million.

It was thanks to Pablo Escobar that Haiti secured its place on the underground conveyor belt feeding Colombian cocaine to the United States.

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In December 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic Selesian Catholic priest, rode 67 percent of the vote to the presidency. The new president was seen as a well-intentioned reformist and a possible threat to drug profits. But political stability is the suicide cocktail for a boom-market narco business. Before Aristide could celebrate his one-year anniversary in office, a group of military officials — including François — ousted him from office and put him on a plane to Venezuela in October 1991.

Postcoup, François appointed himself head of the Port-au-Prince police department and installed trusted associates in the top positions at Haiti's ports and the capital's airport, shouldering out any obstacles to the cocaine trade.

François also got a lucrative side game going. Corrupt officials at the Port-au-Prince airport hunted for other traffickers who hadn't paid the junta's toll, then seized the competition's product. To offload these drugs, François tapped a small-time crew of drug smugglers run by Jacques Ketant.

It was a family affair. There are few details in the public record about Ketant's upbringing, but later court files and police reports show the Haitian-raised Ketant stocked his criminal enterprise with brothers, cousins, and brothers-in-law. He also relied heavily on ties forged in the Miami neighborhood called Little Haiti, where many Haitian expats had resettled. These connections gave the drug smuggler a stateside foothold that was likely attractive to François.

According to court testimony, in the late 1980s, two Haiti-born, Miami-raised best friends — nicknamed "Chief" and "New Chief" — had a brainstorm while working security at Miami International Airport. "I noticed how easy it would be to allow couriers with suitcases filled with cocaine to go through," one — "Chief" Evens Gourgue — later explained in a federal courtroom. "It was a very, very simple task. You could imagine it, with a flip of a key, within two or three seconds, you are making $30,000 or $60,000."

The bad-apple civil servants slipped word of their availability into the Little Haiti gossip mill. Pretty soon, they were working with numerous dealers — including Ketant — who moved product from the island into the airport. For $2,000 per kilo, traffickers would be assured that their drug courier could walk off a plane arriving from Port-au-Prince without the hassle of nosy customs agents.

"[The courier] would bring his carry-on bag back to the information counter with the notion that he needed assistance with his forms," Gourgue testified. "As soon as I felt it was clear behind the counter, there were no other Dade County employees, I would simply make a bag switch with him, and that bag would stay within that counter until my shift was over, and I walked out... with the cocaine in the bag, uncontested."

The corrupt officials also began letting drug smugglers pass through "sterile," or off-limits, parts of the airport. "I saw no problem whatsoever in meeting them while they are in transition from the aircraft to immigration and rerouting them through a door which would eventually lead them to the free side of the terminal," Gourgue explained.

With Ketant taking care of shipments in the United States, François made sure the smugglers had a free pass in Haiti. The military strongman's personal bodyguards drove Ketant's drugs to the airport. Ketant and his brother were arrested by Haitian officials in summer 1994, but within 24 hours, he was released by members of the Haitian narcotics squad. The smugglers even used a military radio frequency to communicate. "There would be communications, such as 'the package left,'?" a crew member told a federal court in 1998. They would state "that the package left, the bird left the nest, or the bird arrived, or the package just arrived, depending on whether money was coming in or cocaine was leaving Haiti."

Ketant was a fixture on both ends of the pipeline. He would frequently ride on the same flights as his drug couriers. Between 1992 and March 1995, Ketant entered the United States at least 40 times. In South Florida, he was a regular at hangouts favored by traffickers, including an illegal Little Haiti gambling joint called Neptune's and a club called the Eight Ball. Ketant and his associates leveraged connections to put their drugs in markets from Miami to New York to Chicago. Prosecutors would later determine that Ketant was responsible for bringing 30,000 kilograms of cocaine into the country.

Big speed bumps didn't slow business. Pablo Escobar's 1993 death at the hands of Colombian antidrug forces, Aristide's 1994 return to power, even François' eventual exile to Honduras — Ketant continued through it all. Even in the mid-1990s, when the two chiefs' schemes at the Miami airport came under the scrutiny of officials, Ketant simply retooled, found a bribe-hungry baggage handler at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and began moving couriers through New York City.

But U.S. officials began to eye the Haiti-Miami connection. In January 1992, two suitcases were abandoned on a Haiti Trans-Air flight into Miami. Inside were three kilos of cocaine. The flight itinerary listed a Jacques Ketant on the same flight. In September 1993, customs agents discovered 63 pounds of cocaine at the same airport, again loaded on a flight from Haiti. Inside the luggage was a phone number for the husband of Ketant's sister. In 1995, customs nabbed a Haitian national carrying almost three pounds of cocaine — and Ketant's business card.

Edouard Joseph and his sister Sibylle were latchkey kids. Their mother, Claudie Adam, juggled jobs across Miami, from nursing at Jackson Memorial Hospital to working at the airport. The Haiti-born woman disappeared into her work schedule. Joseph remembers going a month without seeing her at their home in West Kendall.

The grind paid off. Adam later came to own a video arcade in Little Haiti as well as a travel agency focusing on flights to the island. Joseph remembers her making friendly small talk with prostitutes and fronting tickets for empty-pocketed Haitians trying to get back to the island after a family death. He says this endeared her to the community. "There was a point of time where every business in Little Haiti on 54th Street was getting robbed," Joseph remembers. "My mom's office? Never robbed."

In 1986, Joseph was 15 and Sibylle 18, and their baby half-brother was 2. Their mother's new husband, who owned a Little Haiti restaurant but also ran the bolita — an illegal lottery — was gunned down in front of their Kendall house, the engine still running on his gold Mercedes. Claudie soldiered on. "My mom's a tough cookie," Joseph says.

Their neighborhood was full of single moms from the Caribbean who'd chased opportunity stateside with their kids. It seemed like every third word passing from their lips was "college." Joseph remembers that everybody watched The Cosby Show, the first depiction of a black family holding down a piece of the American dream. Parents here expected their kids to replicate their success and to surpass it. Joseph and Sibylle would travel to Haiti to visit family, and the economic strides that his mother had made became clear to her son. Joseph says, "I looked at my mom and thought, If she can do this and be this incredible individual, then that's the bar. I have to surpass that tenfold."

There was a dad-shaped hole in his life, but uncles served as role models: a doctor in New York, a businessman in Haiti. "These guys walked with this cocksure confidence; it was so impressive. They looked like Denzel in Training Day, these great guys making stuff happen. You look at these guys and you're like, 'That's a guy. That's what I should be. That's what being a man is all about.'?"

DEA agents surveilled Ketant and his men meeting in a bar called, appropriately, the Eight Ball.

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Joseph suited up inside this masculine ideal like it was armor. A small skinny kid, he had a classic Napoleon complex, always thinking he could outrun, outjump, or outfight anyone. After scooping up a diploma from Miami Killian Senior High School, he entered the U.S. Army in 1989. He was in the military when he heard his sister had gotten married.

Joseph says he doesn't remember how the couple met (and Sibylle did not respond to requests for comment for this article), but Ketant was obviously traveling frequently between Miami and Port-au-Prince. The couple eloped, Joseph says. When he finally met his sister's husband, he wasn't impressed.

"My sister was the kind of girl who used to date the captain of the football team. [Jacques Ketant] was just a small, skinny guy," he says. "There are certain people you meet, they could do nothing to you, [but] just the way their mannerisms are, they rub you the wrong way. He was one of those people. He wasn't someone I would hang out with."

The couple moved into a house in West Kendall not far from Claudie, while Edouard, after having seen front-line fighting in 1991's Operation Desert Storm, went to St. John's University in New York City, where he eventually got a degree in economics.

Although he heard occasional snatches of his sister's growing domestic problem, Joseph stayed out of the drama: "My world was college, going to law school, and New York."

In the early 1990s, nothing about Joseph's brother-in-law flagged him as an international drug smuggler. "He had a modest house. He was driving a Toyota 4Runner," Edouard remembers today. "If he was running around like Rick Ross or Diddy, popping bottles, then I might be like, 'Where's this guy getting money?' But honestly, I probably didn't care enough to even ask what he did or anything like that." Joseph says it did not dawn on him that his brother-in-law was a drug kingpin until the 1997 trip to help his sister.

What, if anything, Sibylle knew about her husband's drug business is unclear. Once, in April 1995, U.S. Customs agents in Detroit searched Sibylle and Ketant's sister as the women tried to reenter the country from Japan. They found $40,000 in jewelry. "[L]arge scale narcotics smugglers such as Ketant... launder their narcotics proceeds in various forms, including jewelry," a DEA agent wrote regarding the search in a later affidavit.

Joseph says Sibylle frequently complained to their mother that she was in an abusive relationship, and Claudie would sometimes intervene by talking directly to Ketant. Joseph says Ketant would reply with threats.

"He didn't like the fact that, in his mind, my mom was meddling in his personal business," Joseph says. "Every time they had a conversation, my mom was quick to tell him he wasn't anything, that he needed to learn how to take care of his family, how not to beat on his wife, how to have a viable business. How to be a real man."

For whatever reasons, Sibylle stayed in her marriage. "You could open up any psychology book and see the reasons why battered women go back," Joseph says. "My sister was a textbook example."

Meanwhile, the government's net tightened around Ketant in the mid-1990s. Undercover agents made buys from Ketant's men. Wiretaps caught a discussion about killing snitches.

In May 1996, in New York City, DEA agents uncovered nine kilos of cocaine at the JFK airport. A suspect took off in a car, then bailed out on foot, leaving a briefcase behind. Agents found Ketant's ID in the bag, as well as notebooks listing the names of other members of his crew.

But before agents could grab Ketant, the cocaine dealer made it to Miami and, disguised as a woman, stepped undetected onto a plane headed for Port-au-Prince.

He stayed there. Sibylle stayed in Miami but sent the kids to visit. When Ketant refused to send them home, Joseph would get pulled into the saga when he agreed to make the trip to Haiti with Sibylle.

While the siblings were in Port-au-Prince trying to collect the children on February 10, 1997, Claudie Adams stepped off the sidewalk outside a T.J. Maxx in a shopping center on SW 117th in Kendall at 10:30 in the morning. A cell phone was pressed against her coffee-colored cheek. A masked man got out of a Toyota Paseo, fired twice, and roared off.

Claudie's youngest child, then 12, told investigators he'd overheard his mom having a violent phone conversation with Ketant the day before her killing. It left her grieving sons convinced that Ke­tant had somehow orchestrated the death.

"When the police got there, the first thing they asked my brother was, 'Is there anyone who wanted your mother dead?'?" Joseph recalls. "He said he'd heard her on the phone with [Ketant, who was] saying, 'I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill you!'?"

Today, Miami-Dade Police Lt. Robert Wilcox, the original lead investigator on the case and now head of the department's cold-case unit, confirms that the investigation focused early on Ketant. "He was in Haiti," he says, but the domestic situation was a factor in the killing. The case remains open, and Wilcox says Ketant's involvement is suspected.

The older brother, then 27, moved back home to take care of his younger sibling, combing through Dr. Spock and other parenting books on raising a child who's experienced trauma. Eventually he had to shelve his plans for law school. Looking back, he says stepping inside the role of mother-father-brother shifted his focus away from Haitian drug dealers and murder.

"The anger is so overwhelming, it will consume you," he says. "I focused on him to squash the anger."

A month after Claudie's murder, a Miami judge granted Sibylle and Ketant a divorce. Yet she later reunited with her husband and moved to Haiti. Joseph, stunned that his sister would return to Ketant despite their mother's murder, stopped speaking to her. "I don't understand it," Joseph says. "I doubt I'll ever understand."

In March 1997, one month after Claudie Adam's death, the 22-count indictment against Ketant, François, and 11 codefendants dropped. The charges included conspiring to distribute cocaine and money laundering. Court documents show that federal agents had teased out a complete picture of the drug operation. Informants linked Ketant to corrupt Haitian military members. Agents had exhaustively tracked couriers carrying cocaine on airline flights. Wiretaps even caught Ketant discussing the possible murder of informers. But despite the slam-dunk evidence, U.S. agents could not secure cooperation from the Haitian government to arrest Ketant.

In fact, following the 1997 indictment, Ketant's business entered its boom years. The drug king literally lived in plain sight.

He built a hilltop mansion — $8 million of white-washed Mediterranean columns and gurgling fountains — that spilled elegantly across the scrub brush in a fancy Port-au-Prince neighborhood. The walls inside were draped with 200 pieces of museum-quality art, including a Monet price-tagged at $1 million. A safe held more than $4 million in cash. A Hummer H-2 and a Cadillac Escalade were often parked in the stone drive.

Ketant's operation evolved. He now hid kilos in the guts of ships bringing cement into the Florida Keys and Miami River. In 2001, Aristide, the man many assumed would be Haiti's savior, once again was elected president. But rather than a period of reform, the priest's return marked the beginning of a great run for traffickers. A 2001 U.S. State Department report concluded that 15 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States came through Haiti — a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Ketant would later admit to moving 2,250 kilograms of cocaine in 2002 and 2003 alone. The business netted him $13 million.

According to an account in journalist Michael Deibert's book Notes From the Last Testament, the kingpin and the new president became intimate during the politician's second term. In 2001 — the same year America's Most Wanted featured a segment on Ketant — the kingpin threw a christening party for Aristide's youngest daughter. Aristide named Ketant her godfather.

But the good life began to slip for Ketant in 2003.

According to federal court records, Ketant usually gave Rudy Therassan, commander of the Haitian National Police and an Aristide confidante, $150,000 to spread among 20 or so officials whenever a smuggler plane needed to touch down on a stretch of highway. In return for safeguarding the drugs on their passage to the United States, Therassan would receive the profits from the stateside sale of 35 kilos from each load.

In early February 2003, Ketant had a plane coming in hauling 2,000 pounds of Colombia's finest. But instead of contracting with Therassan as usual, the kingpin secured protection with another corrupt official — the head of the country's anti-narcotics unit. Therassan was reportedly furious.

Later that month, Ketant's brother and business partner Hector was killed. Therassan claimed Hector had opened fire on police as they attempted to make an arrest, but a confidential informant told U.S. law enforcement that Therassan had personally executed Hector due to the dispute over the drug loads. Another informant said Therassan had received his order to kill Hector from officials in Aristide's government. Whatever the truth, the murder may have marked the moment Ke­tant's time card was punched in the country.

In May 2003, Ketant's nephew's romantic advances were rebuffed by a female classmate at the Union School, a posh private high school favored by wealthy Haitians and diplomats. The nephew, along with Ketant's now-teenaged son, hunted down the boy whom the girl preferred, then proceeded to beat him and stuff him in the trunk of a car. Before the two could drive off campus, a school security guard stopped them. The Ketant boys were expelled. A few days later, Ketant, with goons in tow, burst into the school. Deibert's book reports that the furious drug lord threatened "to have the school burned to the ground and the staff killed."

Apparently for Aristide, Ketant was now a liability. A month later, Ketant was invited to the presidential palace for a meeting. Instead, Therassan arrested the kingpin and turned him over to waiting DEA agents.

Ketant was bound for a Miami courtroom, where he'd finally face the 1997 indictment. In 2004, Ke­tant pleaded guilty. He was given a 27-year sentence and forced to pay $15 million in reparations. But the hearing in Miami was less notable for his punishment than for the drug dealer's statements. Ketant spewed out a 25-minute diatribe aimed at Aristide.

"The man is a drug lord," Ketant raged to Federal Judge Federico Moreno, according to the New York Times. "He controlled the drug trade in Haiti. He turned the country into a narco-country."

"I'm not sentencing President Aristide," Moreno said from the bench. "He hasn't been charged."

"Not yet, your honor," the drug smuggler replied. "You will be seeing him pretty soon."

Four days after Ketant's sentencing, unrest drove Aristide from Haiti and into a second exile.

Late on a February afternoon in 2012, a group of lawyers cluttered into a courtroom before Judge Moreno. The court was weighing a motion to reduce the prison time for Jacques Ke­tant, then eight years into his sentence.

"And you want me to reduce his sentence from the 27 years I gave him to what?" the judge asked peering down from the bench.

Lynn Kirkpatrick, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case, spoke. "Your honor, from the 324 months, we're asking for a 50 percent reduction."

"Oh, my goodness gracious," Moreno replied.

"Quite honestly, your honor, had it not been Mr. Ketant's cooperation, we would not have been able to successfully prosecute over a dozen major Haitian drug traffickers."

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"We are, your honor."

"Wow," the judge continued. "You want more than 50 percent on the most important drug dealer in the conspiracy?" The judge pressed. "You know people got life who were less involved?"

"The 50 percent, your honor, is primarily based on the number of cases that he helped us bring," Kirkpatrick explained. "Quite honestly, your honor, had it not been for Mr. Ketant's cooperation, we would not have been able to successfully prosecute over a dozen major Haitian drug traffickers and so many different members of the administration at the time."

When Ketant landed in U.S. custody, he immediately began serving up information on former friends and associates — including Rudy Therassan, the man who allegedly killed his brother. But it was clear prosecutors were hunting for the biggest game: Aristide.

The ex-president had long been suspected of enabling the drug trade but has never been prosecuted. "He was a target for a long time, and Jacques helped with that," Ketant's attorney, Paul Petruzzi, tells New Times. "I think he also played a very significant role in dismantling some of the then-existing Haitian transportation networks. It was an extraordinary role, and he was awarded an extraordinary recommendation."

But there was one last roadblock before Moreno would issue any walking papers. "I got a copy of this letter from Mr. Edouard Rene Joseph," the judge said. "Do you know who that is?"

The U.S. attorney answered in the negative.

"I think you should read it."

In a two-page missive, Joseph had written: "I lived 2.5 miles from where my mom was shot and have not traveled that way on Sunset and 117th since she was killed. In the past, I drove that way countless times, but I likely never will drive that route again for the rest of my life."

Joseph's request was clear: Don't let Ketant out. "The defendant handed my mother a death sentence and her family and friends a life sentence," he wrote. "Twenty-seven years surely seems lenient considering the punishment this irresponsible man dealt my mother and her friends and family and all innocent victims."

Joseph's letter, as well as questions about why the drug lord hadn't paid any of his $15 million restitution, was enough to slam the brakes on any discussion of Ketant's early release in 2012. Moreno kept him in custody and asked the U.S. attorney to further investigate the possible links to the murder. From his prison cell, Ketant responded with his own letter to the judge.

"Concerning the letter sent to the court by my ex-brother-in-law," Ketant wrote, "this is pure fabrication, hatred, jealousy, and envy, a conspiracy between his sister (Sibylle Joseph) my ex-wife, himself, and other unknown persons who will not like to see me coming home to my family and my children.

"She was living with me in Haiti for almost 5 years, from 1999 until my expel [sic] in 2003," the cocaine smuggler wrote. "If she thought that I had anything to do with her mother's death, I don't think she will move to Haiti and stay with me after her mother was assassinated in 1997."

Ketant also hinted that his former mother-in-law was herself involved in "illegal" activity that could have led to her end. The kingpin's attorney is more blunt: "Claudie herself was a drug dealer for a long time and a money launderer," Petruzzi asserts. "So there's no shortage of people who didn't like her."

Joseph scoffs at the accusation. Law enforcement also doesn't buy it. "We have no facts that she was involved in that business," says Miami Dade Police's Wilcox.

But earlier this year, the government again asked for a sentence reduction for Ketant, and Moreno granted it in April. Ketant was released from prison into the hands of immigration officials. Currently, he's trying to fight deportation back to Haiti, where he could face reprisals for ratting out corrupt officials.

Sibylle Joseph is now 47 and relocated to Virginia. Her two children are now in their 20s and remain in South Florida, Joseph says. François hid in Honduras for years but was eventually sent to prison in Haiti. Aristide, who has always denied his involvement in the drug trade, returned to Haiti in 2011 after a seven-year exile in Africa. The politician remains a popular figure in the country.

In 2000, Joseph started a successful beauty-product company called Prince­reigns. Today, his corner office in Boca Raton is covered with grip-and-grin photos of the company founder with an array of big names — Russell Simmons, Jay Z, even Barack Obama. Outside of photos of his wife and four kids, there aren't many family artifacts. The past remains a difficult subject.

Joseph says he's unhappy about Ke­tant's release but resigned to the realpolitik of the drug war. "[U.S. attorneys] probably feel they owe him something: You scratched my back, and now it's my turn to reciprocate," he says. "What they have to realize is these people are the cretins of the world; they're bottom feeders. You really owe them much of nothing."

Yet Ketant's release — and the end of his usefulness to U.S. prosecutors — may have given Miami-Dade detectives the opening they've been waiting for. Within the past six months, investigators have interviewed Ketant regarding the murder.

"There was a tremendous amount of dynamics going on with Ketant and the State Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office," Wilcox says. "[But] now the case is pretty active. We are confident we're moving in the right direction."

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Kyle Swenson
Contact: Kyle Swenson