WASHINGTON — A former Michigan resident was sentenced Wednesday in Miami to 165 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release for child sex tourism offenses.
The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Matthew Andrew Carter, 68, aka William Charles Harcourt and Bill Carter, formerly of Brighton, Mich., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard of the Southern District of Florida. On Feb. 28, a jury found Carter guilty of five counts of traveling from the United States to Haiti to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children and one count of attempting to do so.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from 1995 to 2011, Carter resided at and operated the Morning Star Center near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, prior to his arrest by HSI special agents May 8, 2011. The Morning Star Center was a residential facility that provided shelter, food, clothing and school tuition to Haitian children. The children who lived at the Morning Star Center were from impoverished families that could not feed, educate or otherwise support their children.
"Crimes against children are some of the most heinous our agency investigates," said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. "It is even more despicable that Mr. Carter used his position of trust to abuse children who relied on him for care. Today's sentence should serve as notice to other child predators. We will find you, arrest you and make sure that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"For 15 years, Matthew Carter, under the guise of serving as an international humanitarian, sexually abused more than 50 Haitian children," said U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. "He held himself out as a savior to vulnerable children in Haiti, but in fact cruelly forced those children to choose between poverty and submitting to repeated sexual abuse. Child sex tourism is a heinous crime, and today's sentence demonstrates our commitment to bringing the weight of justice on anyone who seeks to exploit our most vulnerable citizens, wherever they reside."
"Today's sentence brings to a close a horrific chapter in the lives of these victims," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida. "While nothing can ever undo the abuse these victims endured throughout the years, we hope that today's sentence restores them with some sense of confidence and trust, and satisfaction that justice has been served."
The evidence at trial showed that Carter specifically targeted children in need and preyed on their vulnerability. Between 1995 and 2011, Carter frequently traveled between the United States and Haiti in order to raise funds from churches and donors for the continued operation of the center. Carter sexually and physically abused the children in his care and custody at the center during this period of time. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Carter used force to get these children to comply with his sexual demands and required the children to participate in sexual acts in order to receive food, remain at the center and/or continue to receive school tuition payments.
At trial, 16 Haitian victims who resided at the Morning Star Center between 1995 and 2011 testified. Additionally, four witnesses testified that they were sexually abused by Carter in London during the 1970s. Carter previously was charged with and acquitted of charges related to the sexual abuse of children in London, Cairo and Winter Haven, Fla.
The case was investigated by HSI Miami, HSI Attaché Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and the HSI Santo Domingo Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit. Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Secret Service, Miami field office; Haitian National Police Brigade for the Protection of Minors; Haitian Social Services; Ministry of the Interior for Haiti; Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Regional Security Office for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince; Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince; London Metropolitan Police Service; FBI's Washington, Boston and Miami Field Offices; HSI Attaché London and Cairo; U.S. Coast Guard; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Port-au-Prince.
The 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 1-866-347-2423 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, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Bonnie L. Kane of DOJ's Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria K. Medetis of the Southern District of Florida.