Haitian police arrested 10 US citizens on Saturday for trying to take 33 children out of the country without permission, officials said.
Agents captured the group led by a woman named Silsby Laura Lavonne in the border zone of Malpaso near the Dominican Republic, the governmental Ministry of Haitians Living Abroad (MHLA) said.
"The idea was to take the children to receive attention, food and clothing," Lavonne told a judge at the headquarters of the judicial police, which is serving as the provisional seat of government, according to an email sent by the ministry.
Lavonne explained that she had recently acquired a property in a Dominican beach town, where she planned to build an orphanage for victims who lost their parents in the Jan 12 earthquake.
The woman claimed that she was going to house the children in a hotel on the northern coast near Cabarete while the orphanage was being built.
MHLA Minister Edwin Paraison said the ministry of social affairs had the sole authority to permit minors to leave the country.
"Apart from any considerations regarding the intentions of the suspects, we are dealing with an infraction of Haitian law," he said.
The 33 children were transferred to a government orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince. US consular officials visited the suspects in custody, awaiting resolution of the case.
Since the earthquake that orphaned an undetermined number of Haitian children, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and the United Nations Children's Fund have denounced illegal trafficking of minors.
UNICEF offices in Port-au-Prince and Santo Domingo have said that they would redouble vigilance at the land border and Dominican airports to impede the trafficking.