BALTIMORE – A Christian missionary who allegedly told a counselor in Virginia that he had sexual contact with minors in Haiti has been arrested and is in federal custody, authorities said Friday.
If the allegations are proven, James Arbaugh, formerly of the Virginia city of Stuarts Draft, would only the last missionary to take advantage of Haiti’s enormous poverty and anemia line of the law to prevent abuse of vulnerable young people. He lived in Haiti for at least a decade, and described himself on a personal blog as a mission with a group called “Walking Together for Christ Haiti.”
A federal affidavit submitted by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations, says a counselor in Virginia reported Arbaugh to the authorities in September after he allegedly disclosed sexual contact with boys. The statement claims he told investigators in subsequent interviews that he “prepared” or had sexual contact including oral sex with at least 21 boys. A 5-year-old boy that he allegedly molested was the son of a pastor in Jeremie, a city devastated last year by Hurricane Matthew.
“Arbaugh described sexual acts that took place with at least 15 minors that would be considered inappropriate sexual behavior,” special agent Tami Ketcham wrote in the statement.
Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Arbaugh, is in federal custody.
The authorities have 30 days to indict Arbaugh, asks a judge to a renewal or discharge of the costs, according to Brian commenting on the results, spokesman of the U. S. attorney’s office in the western district of Virginia.
It was not immediately clear whether Arbaugh has a lawyer.
Teams of missionaries are a common appearance on the AMERICAN flights to Haiti. For decades, they do important work running a network of hospitals, orphanages, schools and food distribution sites in the hemisphere’s poorest countries.
But in the course of the years, some foreign missionaries have been arrested for sexual abuse of children. Some have been working in Haiti is poorly regulated orphanages, where many young people are not orphans, but were sent by parents who cannot support.
“I expect that what we see now is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Brian Concannon, executive director of the Boston-based advocacy group, Institute for justice and Democracy in Haiti.
Concannon, said the Haitian government must do a much better job of protecting the most vulnerable citizens, but the first line of defense against sexual predators prey on children should be the church groups that send missionaries overseas in the first place.
“They need to step up to ensure that they do not support child abuse,” he said.
On his blog, Harbaugh has photo galleries that show him lying on what looks like a beach with naked or half naked children. He described himself as an evangelist and religious film producer.
The statement, which was published by The News Leader newspaper claims that he would swim nude with the Haitian young people during travel in the whole country, “and sometimes genital skin-to-skin touching would take place under the water.”
A spokesman of the Haitian National Police could not be contacted for comment. A website for the group “Walking Together for Christ Haiti” was not functional.
David McFadden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dmcfadd