Friday, January 29, 2010

Man charged with abusing more boys at Haiti school

Last updated January 28, 2010 12:41 p.m. PT

Man charged with abusing more boys at Haiti school

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A Colorado man charged with sexually abusing boys at a school he founded for street children in Haiti faces new charges that raise the number of alleged victims to 18.

Authorities accuse Douglas Perlitz of enticing children at the Project Pierre Toussaint school in Cap-Haitien into sex acts by promising them food, shelter, cash, cell phones, electronics and shoes. They say he also withheld benefits and threatened to expel the boys if they refused his wishes.

A new 19-count indictment incorporates old and new allegations against the 39-year-old Perlitz, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Perlitz pleaded not guilty last year to the original charges of abusing nine boys. His attorney, William Dow III, said Thursday that he would also plead not guilty to the new counts.

Perlitz, who founded the school when he lived in Connecticut, was arrested last September at his home in Eagle, Colo., and remains in custody.

Authorities characterize him as a sexual predator who used the charitable institution to sexually molest vulnerable children for a decade. They said Perlitz told an investigator that the alleged victims of molestation "need to move on and get over it."

Perlitz created a hierarchy among the boys by giving money, clothing and other items to some while others were denied basic items such as bed sheets, prosecutors say. Boys who engaged in sex acts with Perlitz understood they would face little or no punishment if they behaved abusively to other children, while those who refused sex acts with Perlitz knew they could be expelled and forced to return to a life on the street, authorities said.

According to the indictment, school volunteers and staff members were afraid to come forward with the allegations because Perlitz controlled the school's operations and "utilized the fear of unemployment and the difficult economic situation in Haiti." The indictment alleges Perlitz used his relationship with a religious leader and board members of a fund maintained by the school's fundraising arm to continue to conceal or try to hide his sexual conduct.

The superseding indictment charges Perlitz with nine counts of traveling outside the United States with the intent to engage in sexual conduct with minors and 10 counts of engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with minors. Perlitz faces up to 30 years in prison on each charge if convicted.

The investigation is continuing, prosecutors say.

The school initially served mostly street children as young as 6 and later grew to include a residential program for high schoolers.

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