By Gary Buiso, Courier-Life
The Laurelton resident who founded a Haitian death squad was in court for the second week at his criminal trial in Brooklyn — not for human rights violations, but mortgage fraud.
Prosecutors allege that Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, 51, was behind a scheme that cheated lenders out of $1.7 million. If convicted of second-degree larceny, he faces five to 15 years in prison.
After Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was exiled in the early 1990s, Constant founded the paramilitary organization Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, a group that terrorized Aristide supporters.
In 2006, after two years without a response by Constant, the federal court in Manhattan issued a $19 million default judgment to three women, two of whom were gang-raped in front of their families by FRAPH. The case was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Justice and Accountability.
“It's like Al Capone — it's not enough that he blows people away, he also committed tax fraud,” said Jennie Green, a Center for Constitutional Rights senior attorney.
Last week, her group, along with other civil rights groups and local Haitian activists, held a rally across from State Supreme Court in downtown Brooklyn to publicize the case.
“We thought it was important to call attention to who Constant is,” Green said.
“There's a pattern with this guy. He commits human rights atrocities in Haiti, then he comes to the United States and he victimizes people in another way — in this case, economic crimes.”
According to a report, Constant's attorney told jurors that Constant was framed by others intent on keeping themselves out of jail.
Initially, Constant agreed to a plea bargain that would have sent him back to Haiti. But last spring, after receiving information from Haitian and U.S. human rights attorneys, the judge presiding over the mortgage scheme case rejected the plea bargain.
Green said the judge was made aware of Constant's human rights violations, which would be relevant to the sentencing.
According to U.S. State Department reports, Green said, Constant, as FRAPH's leader, was responsible for the murder, rape and torture of thousands of Haitians in the early 1990s.
From 1996 until his arrest for mortgage fraud in 2006, Constant was living in Laurelton.