Former Lieutenant John Percival Matos who led the group of bank robbers

The case of a group of bank robbers in the Dominican Republic headed by a former member of the military raises concerns about corruption and criminalization within the country's security forces.

The criminal structure was led by former army Lieutenant John Percival Matos, who exploited his military training to plan attacks against three banks between August and December 2016, stealing more than $200,000 dollars, according to authorities.

Percival Matos died during a police operation meant to apprehend him on December 28, two days after the group's latest robbery, reported Dominican Today.

The prosecutor's office has charged four other suspects, including an army major who allegedly supplied the group with weapons, on charges of criminal association, aggravated theft, homicide and attempted homicide, among other crimes.

While authorities eventually managed to catch up with the accused, the events have spurred heavy criticism due to the release of one of the members by allegedly corrupt police officers in December.

On December 12, authorities arrested Brayan Peter Félix Paulino for operating a motorcycle without the necessary driving documents, according to Listin Diario. Brayan -- who is now described as the one who was tasked with carrying out the assaults on the banks while his companions were in charge of the getaway -- was handed over to the national police's criminal division for a backup check on possible priors.

But within 24 hours of his arrest, the individual was set free and allowed to leave with his temporarily impounded motorcycle. By his own admission following his second arrest in early January 2017, Brayan bribed police officers with 20,000 Dominican pesos (about $430) for his freedom, and 5,000 additional pesos (about $90) to leave with his vehicle. Thirteen days later, he would participate in the group's last bank heist, using that very same motorcycle.

Authorities have launched an investigation by internal affairs to uncover the identities of the police officers who took the bribe.

InSight Crime Analysis

Amid concern about an increasing presence of organized crime in the Dominican Republic, these recent events serve as a reminder of the dangers of corruption within security institutions.

Reports indicate that the military experience of two members of the group was central to both the planning and the realization of the bank heists. And the suspects are hardly the first military men in the Dominican Republic to take advantage of their armed forces background when committing crimes. There have previously been cases of soldiers trafficking both arms and drugs.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Dominican Republic

Moreover, corruption within the police appears to have exacerbated the situation with the bank robbing ex-soldiers. But criminality within the island nation's police force is not limited to simply soliciting or accepting bribes. The former head of the country's anti-drugs police was convicted last year of stealing nearly one metric ton of cocaine, presumably with the intention of selling it himself.

These recurring signs of corruption in the Dominican Republic's security institutions are particularly worrying in a country where a top prosecutor has claimed that the military and police are involved in up to 90 percent of organized crime activity, and warnings of criminal influence in other government bodies continue to grow louder.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...