States Attorney's Office District of Connecticut
|August 18, 2010||
FOUNDER OF HAITIAN SCHOOL FOR BOYS ADMITS TO ENGAGING IN ILLICIT SEXUAL CONDUCT WITH MINORS
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations office in Boston, announced that DOUGLAS PERLITZ, 40, waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. In pleading guilty, PERLITZ, a former Connecticut resident and the founder and director of Project Pierre Toussaint, a boys school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, admitted that, on various dates between 2001 and 2008, he traveled from the United States to Haiti and engaged in illicit sexual conduct with eight minor victims.
“Millions of people in Haiti face a daily challenge simply to survive,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “This defendant preyed on impoverished and powerless street children in Haiti, enticing them with significant benefits such as food, shelter, clothing and education, only to exploit his position of trust and sexually abuse the boys under his care. I commend the extraordinary strength and courage of the minor victims in this case who came forward and spoke out about the abuse that they suffered in order to protect others from harm and so that justice would prevail. I also want to acknowledge the unceasing commitment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which devoted and continues to devote significant resources to investigate matters involving American citizens who travel abroad to sexually abuse minors.”
“ICE investigates sex tourism aggressively with the help of our international offices, and our international and domestic law enforcement partners such as the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office,” stated ICE Special Agent in Charge Foucart. “This case demonstrates our international resolve to ensure that those who prey on children – the most vulnerable members of any society – do not go unpunished.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, in approximately 1997, PERLITZ obtained funding to found Project Pierre Toussaint (“PPT”). Initially, PPT began as an intake center referred to as the 13th Street Intake Program. PPT provided services to children of all ages, most of whom were street children. The services provided for the children included meals, sports activities, basic classroom instruction, and access to running water for baths. PPT continued to expand and, in approximately 1999, a residential facility, Village Pierre Toussaint (referred to as the “Village”), was added. The Village was staffed primarily by Haitians, but PERLITZ was directly involved with the Village.
In approximately 1999, The Haiti Fund, Inc. was incorporated as a charitable, religious and educational organization in Connecticut, and operated as the fund-raising arm of PPT. The Haiti Fund raised large sums of money through fund-raising efforts in Connecticut. All of the expenses associated with PPT were paid for by monies raised on behalf of PPT by the Haiti Fund.
At various times between 2001 and 2008, PERLITZ traveled from airports in the U.S. to Haiti to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors and did, in fact, engage in sexual conduct with minor boys who attended school at PPT. PERLITZ abused his position of authority to entice and persuade the minors to comply with the sex acts by providing the promise of food and shelter and other benefits, including cash, cell phones, electronics, shoes, clothes, and other items.
Judge Arterton has scheduled sentencing for December 21, 2010, at which time PERLITZ faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
PERLITZ has been detained since his arrest in Colorado on September 16, 2009. On September 15, 2009, a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport returned an indictment charging PERLITZ with 10 counts related to the alleged sexual abuse of minors in Haiti. On January 28, 2010, the grand jury returned a 19-count superseding indictment. On April 21, 2010, the grand jury returned a 24-count second superseding indictment.
On July 14, 2010, Judge Arterton granted PERLITZ’s motion to dismiss the second superseding indictment for improper venue, finding that none of the essential conduct elements of the crimes charged took place in Connecticut. The Court’s ruling, however, addressed only the question of venue – where a prosecution may be brought – and not the merits of the case. In its ruling, the Court stated that its dismissal for improper venue did “not prohibit the Government from seeking an indictment against Perlitz in judicial district(s) in which venue would be proper,” such as districts in which Perlitz boarded a flight to Haiti with the intent to engage in, or after which he subsequently engaged in, illicit sexual conduct with minors.
The Government remained committed to pursuing the charges as permitted by the Court’s ruling and, on July 15, 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, obtained an arrest warrant for PERLITZ in the Eastern District of New York, based on his travel originating from John F. Kennedy International Airport in that district. Although the Government was prepared to present those charges to a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York, the defendant instead chose to waive venue and plead guilty in the District of Connecticut. As part of the plea, and in light of the defendant’s admissions, the Government has agreed to seek dismissal of the charges that currently remain pending in the Eastern District of New York after the defendant is sentenced in Connecticut.
“I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York for its support and cooperation in helping to bring this defendant to justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein.
This matter is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) in New Haven, with the assistance of ICE in Grand Junction, Colorado; ICE International Affairs in Washington, D.C. and the Caribbean Attaché, the U.S. Department of State, Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti; and private individuals in the United States and Haiti, whose assistance has been critical to the successful prosecution of this case.
U.S. Attorney Fein also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the Haitian National Police Department’s Brigade of Protection of Minors.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Krishna R. Patel, Stephen B. Reynolds and Richard J. Schechter.
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