Criminal Mortgage Fraud Case Against Emmanuel "Toto" ConstantConstant Sentenced to 12-37 Years in Prison
From Civil Judgment to Criminal Conviction
Two years after Emmanuel “Toto” Constant was ordered to pay CJA clients $19 million for crimes he committed against them as the former leader of Haiti’s notorious death squad, FRAPH - Constant again found himself facing justice in a U.S. court. On October 28, 2008, he was sentenced to 12 to 37 years in prison for his role in a criminal mortgage fraud scheme in New York after being found guilty on all six felony counts against him in a July 2008 trial. A copy of the sentencing order is available here.
Constant’s criminal trial and subsequent conviction is the result of measures taken by CJA to educate the U.S. government on Constant’s background as a human rights abuser. The judge specifically mentioned Constant's role as a human rights abuser at sentencing.
Constant first came to the U.S. in 1994 to avoid a Haitian arrest warrant for murder and torture. Constant initially escaped deportation after disclosing on 60 Minutes that he had been on the CIA payroll during the period when FRAPH was formed. The U.S. government again moved to deport Constant after he was indicted in 2006 on unrelated criminal mortgage fraud charges by the New York Attorney General. Constant was offered a plea agreement of 1-3 years and credit for time served in order to expedite his deportation.
Preventing Constant's Deportation to Haiti
When CJA learned about the 1-3 year plea agreement, we mobilized our partners at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and intervened in the criminal mortgage fraud case. Our Haitian partners feared that upon deportation, Constant, like many of his associates, would incite instability and, furthermore, evade justice in Haiti’s current judicial climate. We submitted hundreds of pages of evidence documenting Constant’s human rights background. CJA also sent Haitian human rights attorney Mario Joseph to the hearing to provide evidence that human right groups in Haiti felt strongly that Constant should serve the maximum sentence under the law in New York.
Based in part on these submissions, the judge threw out the plea agreement, stating, " the [human rights] allegations, if true, are heinous, and the court cannot in good conscience consent to the.. negotiated sentence ...[or] .. time served, as that would be a travesty."
In January 2008, Constant rejected a 3-9 year plea bargain offer in favor of going to trial.
The New York Attorney General's office ultimately embraced the importance of educating the court about the role of human rights abusers who seek haven in the U.S. After the conviction, Attorney General Cuomo said, "Today is a victory for justice, and Emmanuel Constant will no longer be a menace to society. Constant is going to jail for harming New Yorkers through an elaborate mortgage scheme. Until he was arrested for mortgage fraud, this lifelong criminal and former leader of a notorious Haitian death squad was living freely in New York."
At the prosecutor's request, CJA prepared a number of submissions for the sentencing hearing. CJA and CCR also made separate submissions to the court and called upon the human rights community to submit letters to the court asking that the court apply the maximum sentence.
After briefing and oral argument, on June 27, 2012, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Divison issued a decision which unanimously confirmed Constant's conviction and the sentence.