By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Haitian-Bahamian man at the centre of an explosive FBI undercover operation into visa fraud in The Bahamas has taken a plea deal, according to court filings.
Edward Israel Saintil is now facing one count of encouraging and inducing an alien to come to the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain.
If convicted, he will be expected to forfeit any proceeds obtained directly or indirectly from the offence.
Prosecutors listed a Samsung Galaxy S8 as specific property subject to forfeiture, but noted the state will also seek a forfeiture money judgement against Saintil for $7,100.
“From on or about January 9, 2018, to on or about August 18, 2018,” the charge document read, “defendant Edward Israei Saintil, for the purpose of private financial gain, did encourage and induce an alien, namely, (FBI informant), to come to, enter, and reside in the United States, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, and residence in the United States would be in violation of law.”
Saintil was expected to appear for a status hearing last Friday but it was vacated after both sides brokered a plea agreement.
He holds both Haitian and Bahamian citizenship, and previously told The Tribune he was born in The Bahamas.
He is alleged to have represented himself as a justice of the peace; however, a search of the justice of the peace registry at the Office of the Attorney General indicated there was only one registered official with the last name of Saintil - but his name was Mark.
Saintil was arrested in late September after the FBI allegedly recorded conversations between him and a paid informant, in which he boasted of close relationships with both current and former top Department of Immigration officials and claimed a capacity to obtain fraudulent bank statements to support US visa applications.
It is alleged that Saintil further claimed local immigration officials did not process work permits unless they were paid to do so, adding that bribes to obtain fraudulent documents for Haitian nationals were the cheapest, according to the FBI agent’s affidavit.
Saintil obtained a two-year work permit for one informant, identified in the affidavit as CHS-3, as a handyman for his company, Saintil’s Painting and Cleaning Services on August 1.
The Tribune has withheld the name of the official, who it was claimed in the affidavit, had signed the permit. Saintil alleged he paid the immigration official $3,000 for the permit that same day, according to court documents filed in the US.
He had also claimed he was in possession of six or seven work permits, telling the FBI informant he had been holding them since December 2017 due to non-payment.
A search of the company registry by The Tribune uncovered only one business with the name Saintil - “Saintil Painting and Cleaning Services”.
The company was registered on May 13, 2017.
Last month, a team of investigators from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and an attorney from the Department of Public Prosecutions were expected to head to Washington to be briefed on the FBI’s findings.
National Security Minister Marvin Dames advised investigators will determine whether any local laws were broken and prosecute people where necessary.
The Tribune exclusively reported on the FBI’s sting operation last month, Saintil contacted this newspaper. At the time, he emphatically denied the allegations and said he had rejected a plea deal.