The founder of a boys’ school in Haiti who was charged with sexually abusing 18 boys in the country between 1998 and 2008 had pleaded not guilty to the charges added last week.
Douglas Perlitz, 39, a former Connecticut man and the founder and director of Project Pierre Toussaint, in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, was arrested on Sept. 16 and has been detained since. More charges were added on Thursday, and he went before a judge Tuesday in federal court, where he entered the plea.
Perlitz -- a Colorado man who has lived in Bridgeport, Stamford and Fairfield -- began traveling to Haiti in 1991 for a volunteer mission and was inspired to start a school to help the many street children in the poverty-ravaged area, according to the grand jury indictment.
Six years later, he obtained a grant from the religious organization, the Order of Malta, and founded Project Pierre Toussaint to open the school, which served boys as young as 6.
It soon grew to include a residential facility for the young boys, another for high school students, whom Perlitz hand-selected, and a house called “Bel Air,” where American volunteers and Perlitz lived, according to the court documents.
In Haiti, Perlitz befriended male street children and recruited them to his school, court records state. It is at the school he is accused of engaging in sex acts with 18 of them.
He’s accused of luring them with promise of food, shelter, shoes, clothing, money, cell phones and other electronics, the court documents state – sometime both for the boys and their families.
If the minors refused, court documents state, Perlitz would threaten to withhold benefits or expel them from school.
He has been charged with nine counts of traveling outside of the United States with the intent to engage in sexual conduct with persons under the age of 18, and 10 counts of engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with persons under the age of 18.
On Sept. 15, the grand jury returned an indictment, charging Perlitz with 10 counts related to alleged sexual abuse of nine boys. He has since been charged with nine additional counts. It also makes reference to nine more alleged victims.
Law enforcement agencies in New Haven, Colorado, Washington, D.C. the Caribbean and Haiti have been involved in the case.