Indicted in Spain for Jesuit Massacre, Ex-Salvadoran Official Found Guilty of US Immigration Fraud
BOSTON/South Boston - The former El Salvadoran Vice-Minister of Public Safety was found guilty of immigration fraud at the US District in Boston last week.
Orlando Inocente Montano who immigrated to the US sometime after 1994 was indicted by the US Department of Justice for lying about his military background when he applied for a protected status in 2002.
The criminal charges were filed against Montano after it was discovered he was living in Everett, Mass. and brought to the attention of US authorities by an international nonprofit based in California, The Center for Justice and Accountability.
According to the indictment, “Montano received military training and served as an officer in the military of El Salvador. He was a military officer during a civil war in El Salvador that spanned the period from 1979 through 1991.
“Throughout the civil war, Montano held positions of authority within El Salvador’s Armed Forces. While a colonel in El Salvador’s Armed Forces, Montano served, from on or about June 1, 1989, until on or about March 2, 1992, in the military government as the Vice-Minister for Public Security.”
The indictment alleges that according to a United Nations report “there was substantial evidence that Montano colluded with other Salvadoran military officers to issue an order to murder a particular Jesuit priest at San Salvador’s Central American University and to leave no witnesses … the consequence of that order was the murder, on November 15, 1989, of six Jesuit priests, an employee of the priests, and the employee’s daughter.”
Montano was found guilty of lying about his military background when he applied for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which the indictment describes as “a benefit the United States government extends to certain foreign nationals, permitting them to remain in the United States if unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.”
The defendant answered “no” to questions in a TPS application about military service, participation in a group involving the use of weapons, and whether he had military and weapons training, despite serving for over a decade in the El Salvadoran military.
According to a press statement issued by Pamela Merchant, Executive Director of the CJA, “Montano was a key participant in the decision to order the killing of Father Ellacuría and ‘to leave no witnesses.’ Colonel Montano was also second in command of the Battalion Belloso, a notorious military unit who carried numerous human rights abuses during the ten year civil war in El Salvador. CJA brought Montano to the attention of the U.S. government after CJA filed a criminal complaint in Spain against Montano and 19 other participants for the ordering and carrying out the assassinations of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her [sixteen year-old] daughter.”
“The sentence of 21 months sends a message to human rights abusers that they cannot seek safe haven in the United States and avoid accountability for their actions. Now, the extradition process for the trial in Spain can begin, where Montano will be tried for his role as one of the decision-makers who ordered the 1989 killing of the Jesuits in El Salvador. This is the moment of justice that the victims of the massacre deserve,” the statement also says.
Spain has requested Montano be extradited to face charges for the alleged Jesuit killings, but the Department of Justice has yet to take action.
Montano was sentenced to 21 months in prison by Judge Douglas Woodlock on August 27 and ordered to self-surrender at a federal prison on October 11 this year.
Counsel for the defense did not respond to a request for comment before the filing of this report.
This article was produced for Open Media Boston's Open Court Project.