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Child Exploitation

Former Peace Corps volunteer admits sexually abusing children in South Africa

HARTFORD, Conn. — A Connecticut man waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty today for traveling from the United States to South Africa to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children. He now faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The guilty plea is the result of an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jesse Osmun, 32, of Milford, Conn., has admitted that he sexually abused four minor girls, all under the age of 6, while he was a volunteer with the Peace Corps in South Africa.

"This investigation represents the very essence of the determination of federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to capture and prosecute an individual whose primary objective was to sexually abuse vulnerable children," said ICE Director John Morton. "I hope that this guilty plea 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. I want to thank our partners at the U.S. attorney's office for their tireless efforts and collaboration in this investigation."

"While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, Mr. Osmun committed horrific, unforgivable crimes," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. "He was supposed to be helping young children in need, many of whom were orphans, but instead, he preyed upon them, sexually abusing several young girls under the age of 6. He betrayed the Peace Corps and the children he had traveled to South Africa to help. For his predatory conduct, he faces up to 30 years in prison."

"Our investigation demonstrated that this defendant sexually abused young girls while he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa," said U.S. Attorney David B. Fein, District of Connecticut. "This was a reprehensible crime, an extraordinary abuse of trust and an unconscionable violation of the Peace Corps mission. I commend Peace Corps OIG, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the South African Police Service for their prompt and thorough investigation of child sexual abuse. Their efforts undoubtedly protected children from future harm and removed a dangerous child predator from society."

"The crimes of this former volunteer are reprehensible," said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. "The Peace Corps has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, and our deepest sympathies are with all the victims involved. I am thankful to the Peace Corps OIG, the Department of Justice, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the South African Police Service for conducting a well coordinated investigation that brought about swift justice in this case. The Peace Corps is committed to ensuring that the children affected by these crimes receive proper care and treatment."

According to court documents and statements made in court, Osmun was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer in March 2009 and began his service at a non-governmental organization (NGO) in South Africa that provides education, food and other services to children, many of whom are orphans. In May 2011, Osmun resigned from the Peace Corps after being confronted by the program director of the NGO with allegations of sexual abuse. He returned to the United States June 2, 2011. Shortly thereafter, HSI special agents and the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General (OIG) – working with members of the South African Police Service – began investigating the allegations of abuse.

The investigation revealed that, while volunteering at the NGO, Osmun enticed four young girls, all of whom were under the age of 6, to engage in illicit sexual acts with him. Osmun persuaded the children to engage in this conduct by playing games with them and providing them with candy. Osmun sexually abused one of the victims approximately two times a week over the course of approximately five months.

On Aug. 4, 2011, Osmun was arrested at his home in Milford, Conn. He has been detained since his arrest.

Chief United States District Judge Alvin W. Thompson has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 19, 2012, at which time Osmun faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Fein noted that the government is seeking restitution from the defendant, and that the Department of Justice, the Peace Corps and the U.S. Embassy in South Africa are working together to ensure that a fund will be available to provide assistance to the victims in this case.

"Supporting victims of child exploitation is a priority for this United States Attorney's Office and for the Department of Justice," added U.S. Attorney Fein. "Our work does not end with the apprehension and conviction of those who sexually exploit children but extends appropriately to the welfare of the child victims."

This case is being investigated by HSI and the Peace Corps OIG. Investigative assistance has been provided by members of the South African Police Service, Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations; HSI attaché Pretoria, South Africa; the HSI Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va.; the U.S. Department of State's regional security office in Durban, South Africa; and the South Africa National Prosecuting Authority.

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

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.