Former Teacher Pleads Guilty to Exploiting Children in Laos
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant taught English to improvised children
BOSTON – A Lynn man pleaded guilty today to sexually exploiting minors to whom he taught English in Laos.
Michael Sebastian, 56, pleaded guilty to three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. U.S. District Court Judge Denise J. Casper scheduled sentencing for March 28, 2024. Sebastian was arrested and charged in July 2020 following his return to the United States and subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2020.
According to the charging documents, Sebastian taught English to impoverished children in Laos. While teaching children there, Sebastian allowed certain students to live with him in his apartment. Students who were unable to pay for their living expenses performed “chores” around the house to earn credit towards their rent payments. One of the “chores” eligible for rent credit was to give Sebastian massages, during which Sebastian would be naked. As part of these massages, Sebastian required some students to touch his genitals and masturbate him in lieu of rent payment.
Between May 2018 and March 2020, Sebastian sexually abused three minor children who lived with him.
“Mr. Sebastian ingratiated himself into a position of trust and then manipulated his relationships to exploit vulnerable minors who sought refuge and education. His horrific conduct is a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “Ensuring the safety of our children from an array of threats is an absolute top priority for this office. This case should send a resounding message to Americans in Massachusetts and beyond: predators will be identified, prosecuted and held accountable.”
“Teachers like Michael Sebastian who use their access to children for their own sexual gratification are both a danger and a disgrace. Today, Mr. Sebastian finally admitted to exploiting impoverished children in a foreign country and betraying their trust,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “This case illustrates how the FBI will pursue justice beyond American borders to safeguard vulnerable victims from predators.”
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. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes that govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
Acting U.S. Attorney Levy; Nicole M. Argentieri, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and FBI SAC Cohen made the announcement. This case was primarily investigated by the FBI's Legal Attache office in Bangkok, along with valuable assistance provided by the FBI's Child Exploitation Operational Unit and the Boston FBI’s Child Exploitation Human Trafficking Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Paruti, Project Safe Childhood Coordinator and Chief of the Office’s Major Crimes Unit, and Trial Attorneys Nadia Prinz and Eduardo Palomo of 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 https://www.justice.gov/psc.
Updated December 21, 2023
Project Safe Childhood