Former Orphanage Founder in Haiti Faces Federal Charges of Sexually Abusing Minors

Denver — An orphanage founder in Haiti who faced past accusations of abusing boys in his care is facing criminal charges in the U.S. after an investigation revealed that he traveled to the Caribbean country to sexually abuse minors, federal officials said Tuesday.

Michael Geilenfeld, 71, previously sued a Maine activist over accusations he abused boys in Haiti, calling the claims “vicious, vile lies,” before an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI led to an indictment contending he traveled from Miami to the island nation “for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person under 18.”

Geilenfeld, who was arrested in Colorado, is expected to have a detention hearing in Denver on Thursday before being flown to Miami, where the case originated, officials said. His Massachusetts lawyer, Robert Oberkoetter, declined to comment.

Geilenfeld and North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti sued the activist, Paul Kendrick, who accused Geilenfeld of being a serial pedophile after speaking to young men who claimed they were abused by Geilenfeld as boys in Port-au-Prince, where Geilenfeld founded the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in 1985.

In a federal civil lawsuit in Maine, Geilenfeld and the charity blamed Kendrick for Geilenfeld’s 237-day imprisonment in Haiti, damage to his reputation and the loss of millions of dollars in donations.

The activist’s insurance companies ended the lawsuit in 2019 by paying $3 million to Hearts with Haiti, but nothing to Geilenfeld.

Kendrick had praise Tuesday for those who stood up to the man who held the purse strings to their education, food, shelter and clothing.

“It took an unbelievable amount of courage for them to come forward and report their abuse,” he said.

The conduct cited by the grand jury happened between November 2006 and December 2010, when Geilenfeld was operating the orphanage.

The charge of traveling in foreign commerce for illicit sexual conduct has a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Authorities in Haiti have long investigated sex abuse allegations against Geilenfeld, who was arrested in the Caribbean country in September 2014 but released a year later after his case was dismissed.

The alleged victims, who did not appear in court in Haiti, were granted an appeal, but the case has yet to go to trial as Haiti’s judicial system continues to crumble amid widespread corruption and a spike in gang violence.

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