Feted Fairfield Alum Indicted for Abuse in Haiti

Article excerpt

A Fairfield University alumnus heraided in the past as a model product of Jesuit education was indicted last month by a federal grand jury in Connecticut for sexually abusing some of the young Haitian boys he was supposedly helping.

Douglas Perlitz, 39, who received significant contributions toward his work with youth in Haiti from the campus community and from Catholics in the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese, was indicted on seven counts of traveling outside the United States with the intent of having sex with minors and three counts of engaging in sexual conduct with minors in a foreign country. The offenses allegedly involved nine boys during a 10-year period.

Perlitz, a 1992 graduate of Fairfield, first traveled to Haiti as a volunteer during his junior year. He later returned to Haiti and in 1997 founded Project Pierre Toussaint, a home and school for Haitian boys in Cap Haitien on the country's northern coast. In 2002, Fairfield invited him to be the commencement speaker.

According to the indictment, Perlitz bribed street children with the promise of food and shelter, foreign currency, cell phones and "other benefits" in exchange for sexual acts. The indictment also charges that Perlitz showed "homosexual pornography" to children "as part of his grooming process."

"When questioned about why he permitted minors to sleep in his room," the indictment says, "Perlitz would attempt to conceal his sexual abuse of the minors by stating that it was common in Haiti for children and adults to sleep together, or he would state that the particular minor was having a lot of difficulty."

A primary supporter of the project was Jesuit Fr. Paul Carrier, director of campus ministry at Fairfield until he was abruptly moved from the position in 2006. Carrier set up the Haiti Fund Inc., the funding arm of Perlitz's project. According to the indictment, a total of $2 million was moved from the Haiti Fund to an account controlled by Perlitz. Some of it, investigators said, was used to pay boys to engage in sexual acts.

In recent weeks, Carrier had dropped from sight but the Jesuits broke their silence on his activities Oct. 1 when the New England Province of Jesuits released a statement saying the province was cooperating with the U.S. attorney regarding Carrier's whereabouts.

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The statement also said that Carrier "currently has no assignment and is not performing any public ministry."

Paul Kendrick, a Fairfield alumnus and an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, said he was unable to get any information on Carrier despite repeated queries to the New England Province. Kendrick had traveled to Haiti and visited Perlitz's operation in April 2003. Perlitz was not present at the time of his visit, Kendrick said in a recent phone interview with NCR, but Kendrick said he was impressed with the operation. But when allegations surfaced about the project, Kendrick pressed the Jesuits for answers about Carrier, who, he said, had visited the school and homes in Haiti frequently.

Carrier, now identified in news reports as the "religious leader" referred to in the indictment, selected the Haiti Fund's board, whose members included influential figures in the Bridgeport diocese. Among the board members were Philip Allen Lacovara, the attorney who represented the diocese in several recent high-profile court-cases, including the failed attempt to block release of documents relating to clergy sexual abuse cases, and his wife, Madeline. …