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Child Exploitation

Connecticut federal judge orders restitution to victims of child sex abuser

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A Connecticut federal judge has ordered the distribution of nearly $49,000 in restitution to 16 victims of a child sex abuser in a case investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton instructed ICE HSI to open 16 separate bank accounts with $1,000 each for the victims of Douglas Perlitz, 40. Perlitz pleaded guilty in August 2010 to traveling overseas to engage in sex with a minor. He was sentenced in December 2010. The money was seized from two bank accounts and a retirement account that Perlitz maintained.

Perlitz was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release for sexually abusing at least eight minor victims over the course of a decade.

"We recognize the judge's ruling in this case as a clear acknowledgement of the concerns we share collectively over the well-being of the victims of child exploitation - innocent children - who are often forgotten in the aftermath of these heinous crimes," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Boston. "Although no amount of money can ever repair the emotional scars left on these children, some of whom are now adults, the actions of this judge should be viewed as a meaningful contribution to their recovery."

According to court records, around 1997, Perlitz obtained funding to create Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT), a school for boys in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Initially, PPT began as an intake center referred to as the 13th Street Intake Program. At PPT, children of all ages, most of whom were street children, received meals, participated in sports activities, received basic classroom instruction and access to running water for baths. PPT continued to expand. In 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.

In the late 1990s, the Haiti Fund was incorporated as a charitable, religious and educational organization in Connecticut. It operated as the fundraising arm of PPT. The Haiti Fund conducted fundraising efforts in Connecticut that raised large sums of money for PPT. All expenses associated with PPT were paid for by monies raised by the Haiti Fund.

In pleading guilty, Perlitz admitted that, at various times between 2001 and 2008, he traveled from airports in the United States to Haiti to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors and did, in fact, engage in sexual conduct with minor boys who attended school at PPT. Perlitz abused his position of authority to entice and persuade the minors to comply with the sex acts by providing the promise of food and shelter and other benefits, including cash, cell phones, electronics, shoes, clothes and other items.

The government has alleged that between 1998 and 2008 Perlitz victimized at least 18 minor boys. Six victims traveled from Haiti to offer testimony at his sentencing.

ICE HSI investigates child exploitation 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-2-ICE. 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.