Salvadoran police say photos that surfaced Friday show the legal adviser to American missionaries jailed in Haiti may be the lead suspect in a human trafficking ring involving child prostitution in El Salvador.
Police say they are waiting for fingerprints to determine if Jorge Anibal Torres Puello is also wanted in El Salvador on charges of promoting prostitution among children in what has been one of the nation's most vexing social problems.
``There are similarities -- the date of birth, and also similarities in the physical appearance,'' said Howard Cotto, deputy director of investigations for Salvadoran police, during a press conference in San Salvador.
The controversy surrounding the 42-year-old legal adviser -- a key figure in the drama surrounding 10 Americans accused of trying to take 33 children out of Haiti -- exploded yesterday when Salvadoran police announced they were trying to determine if the legal advisor was the notorious child trafficker.
Police said the probe began when they were asked by Dominican officials to search for connections, but did not elaborate.
During a press conference, Cotto said that mug shots of Jorge Torres Orellana -- wanted for promoting prostitution and posting explicit photos of children on the Internet -- shared a remarkable likeness to a photo of Torres Puello.
In an interview with The New York Times, Torres Puello denied any connection to the Salvadoran fugitive, saying ``I don't have anything to do with El Salvador.''
For the past two weeks, the U.S. church group has come under scrutiny for skirting the laws of Haiti to remove the children in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that tore through the capital on Jan. 12.
In the wake of their arrest, members of the Central Valley Baptist Church have said their leader, Laura Silsby, mislead them about the legitimacy of their mission in Haiti.
But with the recent announcement by Salvadoran police, attention has turned to Torres Puello, who has been representing himself as a legal counsel to the group.
Though he claims to have a law license, the Santo Domingo address listed on Puello Consulting's website turned out to be the office of Alejandro Puello, Torres Puello's cousin.
Alejandro Puello showed a Miami Herald reporter on Friday around the bare, one-room office in a working-class neighborhood and said Torres Puello has never worked with him, and that his cousin is not a lawyer.
``Jorge Puello has nothing to do with this office,'' he said.
Alejandro Puello, 27, said he was unaware of any ties that his cousin may have with human trafficking in El Salvador.
He said he thought his cousin was born in New York and lived in Canada until recently.
Alejandro Puello -- who said he is licensed to practice law in the Dominican Republic -- said he challenged his cousin when he learned Torres Puello was lending legal advice to the American church group.
``I said, `Jorge, how, if you're not a lawyer?' '' he said. ``He told me, `I hired a lawyer for them in Haiti.' ''
During the press conference Friday in El Salvador, police said they will seek Torres Puello's extradition if evidence shows he is indeed the fugitive and accused child trafficker Torres Orellana.
Charges were filed last year against Torres Orellana after three young girls escaped captivity and led police to the house where they had previously been held.
Also charged was Ana Josefa Galvarina Ramirez Orellana. Though it is not clear how Torres Orellana escaped, Ramirez was convicted of trafficking humans between El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
Gerardo Reyes can be reached at greyes@ElNuevoHerald.com