Haitian gang leader Germine ‘Yonyon’ Joly has been charged by federal prosecutors in the U.S. in connection with the kidnapping of 17 Christian missionaries last year, the Associated Press reports.

The 29-year-old leader of the 400 Mawozo gang is the first person charged in connection with the kidnapping of 16 U.S. and one canadian missionaries in October, 2021. Joly was extradited to the U.S. last week, and the indictment notes that he was in a Haitian prison at the time of the kidnapping. Prosecutors have claimed he directed his gang to carry out the kidnapping, whose victims included 12 adults and five minors, while he was still behind bars.

“This case shows that the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a U.S. citizen abroad,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a statement shared by the Department of Justice. “We will utilize the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to hold accountable anyone responsible for undermining the safety of Americans anywhere in the world.” 

Twelve of the captives staged an overnight escape, and managed to “elude their kidnappers,” per the AP. They were eventually reunited with five hostages who the AP reports had previously “reached freedom,” though its unclear if the millions in ransom that was demanded by the kidnappers played a part in their release. 

“This indictment is a step towards achieving justice for the victims who were volunteering their services in Haiti when they were kidnapped and held for weeks on end,” U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “Along with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to holding accountable those who carry out acts of violence against Americans abroad to further their own aims.”