Douglas Perlitz charged with sexually abusing children in Haiti.
Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and John T. Morton, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport has returned an Indictment charging a former Fairfield County, Connecticut resident with sexually abusing several boys in Haiti for approximately a decade.
Douglas Perlitz, 39, a resident of Colorado, has been charged with seven counts of traveling outside of the United States with the intent to engage in sexual conduct with individuals under the age of 18, and three counts of engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with persons under the age of 18. Perlitz was the founder and director of Project Pierre Toussaint, a boys school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
The Indictment was returned on September 15. On the morning of September 16, Perlitz was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at his home in Eagle, Colorado. Following his arrest, he appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland in Denver and has been detained pending a detention hearing that is scheduled for September 18 in Denver.
"This defendant is alleged to have used his position of power to manipulate and sexually abuse vulnerable boys for nearly a decade," U.S. Attorney Dannehy stated. "I want to acknowledge the diligent work of ICE, the agents involved in the investigation, and members of the State Department assigned to our Embassy in Haiti. This case would not have been brought without their coordinated efforts, the resources they have devoted, and their commitment to seeing that justice is done."
"Sex tourism victims are particularly vulnerable to predators who lure them with promises of the most basic of human needs then rob them of their innocence," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE Morton. "There will be no refuge for child sexual predators who believe that they may victimize children outside the United States. No place is too distant or too remote to escape the attention of U.S. law enforcement."
The Indictment alleges that, in approximately 1997, Perlitz, obtained funding from a religious organization 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 as young as six years of age.
The services provided for the children included meals, sport activity, basic classroom instruction, and access to running water for baths. The staff of the intake center included American volunteers who received a small stipend for their work as well as Haitians who were involved with a variety of day to day operations including teaching, cooking, and driving. 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.
The Indictment further alleges that, in approximately 2007, the 14th Street facility was established, which was a residential program for high-school age children who Perlitz claimed needed extra attention. Perlitz individually chose all of the children who resided at the 14th Street facility, which was a home where adults cared for them. At the 14th Street facility, children were provided with tutors, special cooking arrangements, high-end electronics, and other amenities.
In Haiti, Perlitz resided in the lower floor of a two-story house, referred to as "Bel Air." American volunteers lived on the second floor of the house.
The Indictment further alleges that 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 the efforts of a religious leader who asked parishioners for contributions as well as Board Members who regularly attended dinners, cocktail parties, and other events to raise funds for PPT. Funds that were raised on behalf of PPT were transferred to an account in Haiti that Perlitz controlled. Between 2002 and 2008, approximately $2 million was transferred from the Haiti Fund to Perlitz in Haiti.
The Indictment alleges that, over the course of several years, Perlitz had illicit sexual contact with nine boys who attended school at PPT. In order to entice and persuade the children to comply with the sex acts, Perlitz provided the promise of food and shelter and also provided monetary and other benefits, including cash, cell phones, electronics, shoes, clothes, and other items. If minors refused to engage in sex acts, it is alleged that Perlitz would at times withhold benefits or threaten to expel them from the program.
The Indictment alleges that, when Perlitz was questioned by others as to why he permitted minors to sleep in his room at Bel Air, Perlitz attempted to conceal his sexual abuse of the minors by stating that it was common in Haiti for children and adults to sleep together, or he would state that the particular minor was having a lot of difficulty.
The Indictment alleges that Perlitz took steps to control and manipulate the Board of Directors of the Haiti Fund to ensure that he maintained autonomy and control over all of the operations at PPT. Because Perlitz maintained exclusive control over PPT's operations and funding, he made it difficult for volunteers, staff members, or others to question his actions. Perlitz also utilized the fear of unemployment and the difficult economic situation in Haiti to control and prevent the Haitian staff at PPT from coming forward about the allegations of sexual abuse.
Finally, the Indictment alleges that, after allegations of long-term sexual abuse by Perlitz surfaced in approximately 2007, Perlitz used his relationship with a religious leader and influential Board Members to continue to attempt to conceal his illegal sexual conduct by causing others to manipulate, prevent, and preclude Board Members in the United States from questioning any issues relating to Perlitz. As part of the concealment, it is alleged that a letter was sent to donors stating that the accusations against Perlitz were groundless. Also, it alleged that investigators hired by the Board of Directors were denied entry into Perlitz's room at Bel Air, and that two computers and other items from a safe in Perlitz's room were removed and returned to Perlitz in Connecticut.
U.S. Attorney Dannehy and DHS Assistant Secretary Morton stated that this is an ongoing investigation and encouraged anyone with information that may be relevant to the investigation to call ICE in Connecticut at 203-773-2029
The United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, also has established a telephone hotline for individuals in Haiti to call with information relevant to the investigation.
If convicted, Perlitz faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $250,000, on each count of the Indictment.
U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it is the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by United States 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, and the U.S. Department of State, Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Haiti.
U.S. Attorney Dannehy and DHS Assistant Secretary Morton also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the Haitian National Police Department, the Brigade of Protection of Minors, and the assistance of individuals who have come forward and to provide information to law enforcement.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Krishna R. Patel with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado.