U.S. Couple Held for Ransom in Haiti

Abigail Toussaint and Jean Dickens Toussaint | Image by First Haitian Baptist Church of Pompano Beach/Facebook

Earlier this month a young American couple was kidnapped while visiting Haiti. They are now being held for ransom.

Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint, both aged 33 and residents of Tamarac, Florida, went to Haiti on March 18 to visit relatives and partake in a carnival in Jean-Dickens’ hometown of Leogane, per Yahoo News.

Upon arriving at the airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, the couple were met by a family friend and they began to make their way to Leogane by bus.

Their bus was stopped by a gang en route and the three travelers were taken hostage.

“There’s supposed to be this agreement between the buses and the gang, to pay a fee every time they drive from the airport to our town of Leogane uninterrupted, but that bus driver apparently did not pay that fee, so they pulled them over,” Christie Desormes, Jean-Dickens’ niece, told Yahoo News.

The kidnappers demanded that the family pay a ransom of $6,000.

“They gave us names and where to transfer the money via Western Union, and [we] had to pay $2,400 in advance, and then they would release our family, and then they would get the rest,” Desormes told Yahoo News.

Despite having sent the funds, the Toussaints and their escort remain captive.

Another call was received shortly thereafter. This time the kidnappers demanded that the family pay $200,000 for each of the hostages.

“How are we ever going to come up with that money?” Nikese Toussaint, Jean-Dickens’ sister, asked AP News. “[We] want our family back. We are not rich over here.”

The couple’s 2-year-old son celebrated his birthday on March 28.

“We’re trying to smile,” Nikese said. “We have to smile with him, and give him love.”

Desormes has launched a petition to bring attention to the Toussaints’ predicament.

The U.S. State Department told AP News in a statement that it was aware of the kidnapping and has been liaising with Haitian authorities.

Haiti has long struggled with gang activity, exacerbated by extreme poverty and frequent public health crises.

Yet the situation in Haiti has recently begun to “spiral out of control,” per a news release from the United Nations.

Gang-related violence saw 208 people killed, 164 injured, and 101 kidnapped in the first two weeks of March alone.

“We didn’t really want them to go,” Christie Desormes told Yahoo News. “We were upset to find out that this even happened. We’re trying to put on a brave face for each other and for their kid.”

It is estimated that gangs now control more than 70% of Port-au-Prince, filling a power vacuum after Haitian President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in 2021. Since then, the country has been gripped by a wave of extreme violence.

In this context, kidnapping has emerged as a profitable business for gangs.

Haiti has been subject to a level 4 out of 5 travel advisory since December 1, 2022, with the State Department cautioning U.S. citizens against traveling there.

“U.S. citizens should leave Haiti immediately in light of the current security and health situation and infrastructure challenges. Kidnapping is widespread, and U.S. citizens are frequently targeted,” the advisory reads.

“The FBI is investigating, and they’re also helping us get in contact with the gang again, so that we can begin negotiations with their help,” Desmores told Yahoo News.

While Jean-Dickens had been forced to make the two previous calls, they were brief and the family has no idea what condition the kidnapped victims are currently in, per AP News.

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  1. R Reason

    The highest is level “4 out of 4” – Do Not Travel.

  2. Anna W.

    When a person don’t educate themselves about areas you should never travel too, has to be stupid.
    God bless, now their family is suffering. There’s a lot of Haitian who live in Florida. They probably told them it’s a great place to visit and they believed that CRAP 💩


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