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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

American Man Charged with Exploiting Children in Laos

BOSTON – An American man was arrested and charged yesterday in connection with exploiting teenage boys in Laos.

Michael Sebastian, 52, was charged by criminal complaint with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and sex trafficking of children. Sebastian was arrested yesterday in Lynn, where he has been living with his mother. Following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston today, Sebastian was detained pending a detention and probable cause hearing scheduled for July 13, 2020.

According to the charging documents, Sebastian has been living in Laos, where he teaches English to Laotian youth. During at least the past two years, Sebastian provided housing to at least three boys, aged 13-18, to whom he taught English. In lieu of paying rent to live with him, Sebastian allegedly allowed the boys to pay off their rent by performing chores. According to the complaint, these chores included giving Sebastian massages – which, in turn, included masturbating Sebastian.

The charge of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places provides for a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of sex trafficking of children provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Brian C. Rabbitt; and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Paruti, Lelling’s Project Safe Childhood coordinator, and Leslie Fisher, a Trial Attorney in the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Component(s): 
Updated July 8, 2020