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Child Exploitation
08/05/2011

Peace Corps volunteer charged with sexually abusing children in South Africa

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - A Connecticut man was arrested Thursday by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) after being named in a criminal complaint alleging child sexual abuse involving children under the age of six.

Jesse Osmun, 31, of Milford, Conn., was charged in a federal criminal complaint with traveling from the United States to South Africa to engage in illicit sexual conduct with multiple children.

The criminal complaint alleges that Osmun traveled to South Africa on January 29, 2010. On March 25, 2010, he was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer and began service as a volunteer at the Umvoti Aids Center (UAC) in Greytown, South Africa. The UAC is a non-government organization that provides support to residents of the Greytown area affected by the AIDS virus. They provide education, food, and other child development services to children between the ages of three and 15. The UAC also has a center for the younger children often referred to as the preschool.

It is alleged that Osmun, while volunteering at the UAC preschool, sexually molested at least five girls, all of whom were under the age of six, for approximately one year. It is further alleged that Osmun engaged in illicit sexual conduct with one of the girls approximately two times a week over the course of five months.

"This arrest represents the very essence of the determination of federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to capture an individual whose primary objective, allegedly, was to sexually abuse vulnerable children," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge, ICE HSI in New England. "I hope that this arrest sends a clear message that we will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who engage in this behavior to ensure that there is no place to hide here in the United States or anywhere in the world."

"This defendant is alleged to have sexually abused very young girls, sometimes in exchange for candy, while he served as a Peace Corps volunteer at an AIDS center in South Africa," said David B. Fein, U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut. "We are committed to prosecuting those who sexually exploit children, the most vulnerable in society, in this country and abroad. I want to commend the diligent, swift and coordinated efforts of the Peace Corps' Office of Inspector General and ICE Homeland Security Investigations in investigating this matter and arresting this individual."

After being confronted by the UAC program director in May 2011, Osmun resigned from the Peace Corps. He returned to the U.S. on June 2, 2011.

Following his arrest at his residence, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport, Conn., and was ordered detained.

If convicted of the charge of traveling outside the U.S.to engage in sexual conduct with a minor, Osmun faces a maximum 30-year jail term and a fine of up to $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation is being conducted cooperatively with ICE HSI and the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General. Investigative assistance has been provided by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS); ICE's attaché office in Pretoria, South Africa; the ICE Cybercrimes Center in Fairfax, Va., and the Department of State's regional security office in Durban, South Africa.

The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Fein, Assistant U.S.Attorney Krishna R. Patel, and Trial Attorney Bonnie Kane of the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

ICE HSI investigates these crimes as part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.