A couple from Florida was kidnapped and is being held for ransom in Haiti after visiting the country last week, reports CNN.
Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint of Tamarac, Florida, were visiting relatives and planned to attend a festival in Haiti when they were abducted on March 18, 2023, while aboard a bus leaving from Port-au-Prince, the capital city of the country.
“Please share this and get the word out as much as you can,” the statement says, hoping the two return safe “to their child and family.”
A family friend who met the couple at the airport was also kidnapped, according to their niece Christie who didn’t disclose her last name.
"They stopped the bus at a stop and they asked for the Americans on the bus and their escorts to come off the bus and then they took them," Christie said.
The family learned about the ransom after the family friend that met the Toussaints at the airport contacted his relatives, Christie continued.
The kidnappers initially demanded $6,000 for the couple's release and then raised the price to $200,000 per person.
“Once we sent that money, they tried to up the price to $200,000 per person and we don’t have that type of money,” Christie explained.
Nikese Toussaint, the sister of Jean Dickens Toussaint, said the family didn’t know how to contact law enforcement in Haiti but reached out to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
In the aftermath of the incident, a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of State said they were "aware of reports of two U.S. citizens missing in Haiti."
"The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can,” the spokesperson said. “We have nothing further to share at this time.”
The couple who share a 1-year-old son traveled to Haiti despite their family’s apprehension about the trip because of the rise of gang violence and political unrest that has spread throughout the country.
"We were very worried when they said they were going, we told them not to go but they wanted to go," Nikese Toussaint said.
Recently, the State Department placed Haiti on its Travel Advisory "due to kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest."