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Who is Laura Silsby?

Laura Silsby, the leader of 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries facing kidnapping charges in Haiti, is no stranger to legal and financial troubles.

The 40-year-old Idaho businesswoman convinced members of Idaho's Central Valley Baptist Church to follow her dream of building an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for Haitian children. But her other business and personal ventures reveal a checkered history.

Silsby has faced 14 legal complaints for unpaid wages in connection with her online shopping business, Personal Shopper. Employees won nine of those complaints and Silsby was ordered to pay $31,000 in wages plus another $4,000 in fines, according to the New York Times.

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She's also had at least nine traffic citations in the last 12 years including four for failing to register or insure her car.

Last July, Silsby defaulted on the mortgage for her Meridian, Idaho. But she used that same address to register a nonprofit, the New Life Children's Refuge - the orphanage operation linked to the current kidnapping charges.

But those who know her don't doubt her motives, noting that her problems usually stem from a lack of organization.

"In my heart, I think she probably went down there with good intentions, to help people that were in trouble, but it's a lack of foresight and planning, once again. She did that in her business life and it seems to follow her in her personal life," Bryan Jack, an employee at Personal Shopper currently suing Silsby for back pay, told CNN.

Silsby, a divorced mother of two young children, now finds herself in the middle of an international legal firestorm. The group faces kidnapping charges for trying to remove 33 Haitian children from the country without documentation. At least 22 of those children were found to still have parents.

Edwin Coq, the lawyer assigned to defend the missionaries, said Friday that Silsby knew she couldn't remove the youngsters without proper paperwork, but he characterized the other nine missionaries as unknowingly being caught up in actions they didn't understand.
"They were naive. They had no idea what was going on and they did not know that they needed official papers to cross the border. But Silsby did," he said.

In an exclusive jail cell interview with CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker, Silsby maintained the group's innocence.

"We have not in any way trafficked or kidnapped children. We came here out of love in our hearts for these children and have done our best to help them," Silsby said. "Once we were asked at the border to provide an additional piece of paperwork for the Haitian government, we willingly complied.

"I was willing to come back the very next morning at 6:00 a.m. to complete it and the children were going to remain there until I returned. But instead, they came with [an] armed guard and took us to the police station for interrogation and held us on charges … on false charges."

Silsby had begun planning last summer to create the orphanage. When the earthquake struck she recruited other church members, and the 10 spent a week in Haiti gathering children for their project.

Most of the children came from the ravaged village of Callebas, where people told the AP they handed over their children because they were unable to feed or clothe them after the quake. They said the missionaries promised to educate the children and let relatives visit.

Their stories contradicted Silsby's account that the children came from collapsed orphanages or were handed over by distant relatives.

She also said the Americans believed they had obtained in the Dominican Republic all the documents needed to take the children out of Haiti.

The Dominican consul in Haiti, Carlos Castillo, told the AP on Thursday that the day the Americans departed for the border, Silsby visited him and said she had a document from Dominican migration officials authorizing her to take the children from Haiti.

Castillo said he warned Silsby that if she lacked adoption papers signed by the appropriate Haitian officials her mission would be considered child trafficking. "We were very specific," he said.
Laura Silsby, the leader of 10 U.S. Baptist missionaries facing kidnapping charges in Haiti, is no stranger to legal and financial troubles

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