A Michigan man who ran a residential center for poor children in Haiti has been indicted on charges of child sex tourism, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Matthew Andrew Carter, 66, of Brighton, Mich., forced boys at the Morning Star Center, which provided food, shelter and education, to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for gifts, money or continued care, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said.
At the Port-au-Prince center, Carter, who also went by the names "William Charles Harcourt" and "Bill Carter," was known as "Mister Bill."
A bearded father figure who walked with a limp, Carter showered boys with attention at the concrete home he has rented for the last four years, and at two other locations where he operated earlier. But he also beat his boys with sticks, punched them with his fists, fired his gun in the air and locked them in the yard "with the dogs," four young men at his center told The Associated Press. Yet despite the abuse they said they suffered or witnessed, the boys stayed at the center.
Carter has been in custody since his arrest May 8 in Miami on a charge of traveling from the U.S. to Haiti for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with minors.
A grand jury indicted Carter on May 19, and a superseding indictment filed Thursday added three additional counts. If convicted, Carter faces up to 15 years in prison for one count of child sex tourism and up to 30 years in prison for each of the other counts.
Carter's federal public defender did not immediately return messages Friday from The Associated Press.
Carter had run the school in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince since the mid-1990s, and he regularly traveled between the Caribbean country and the U.S. to fundraise, according to court documents.
Fourteen boys currently live at the center full-time, and three others live there on the weekends, the documents said.
Most of the boys' families sent them to Carter's center to receive support and educational opportunities that they could not afford, while other boys were orphans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Alvaro Flores wrote in a May 4 criminal complaint.
Carter engaged in illicit sexual conduct with at least eight former and current students from the mid-1990s through April, according to the criminal complaint. He allegedly forced the students to engage in sexual acts in exchange for gifts, money or continued care.
"This defendant preyed on innocent Haitian children living in severely depressed conditions, making his conduct particularly deplorable," said U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer in a statement Friday. "Rather than using Morning Star as he promised _ to administer aid and provide sanctuary to needy children _ he used the center to manipulate, abuse and sexually exploit them."
One of the students told investigators that the sexual abuse continued for six years, beginning when he was 10. The student said Carter stopped buying him clothing, shoes and books when, at age 16, he refused to perform any more sexual acts on Carter, Flores wrote in the complaint.
Another student said that Carter would threaten to send other boys back to their families and poverty if they refused to perform sexual acts with him, Flores wrote. Yet another student reported Carter beating him with a stick when he refused Carter's instructions for sexual acts.
The young men who spoke with the AP have been living outside the center in tents since May when U.S. and Haitian authorities locked its doors. One 22-year-old man told the AP he was sexually abused by Carter but declined to elaborate. Another said he was among the boys Carter invited into his bedroom.
The sexual activity wasn't a secret, the men said.
"I knew what was going on but couldn't do anything," said the 22-year-old man, who moved in with Carter nine years ago. "He did a lot for me. He put me in school. If he gives me money, I wouldn't give anything back."
The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.
A friend of Carter's, Bertha Wiles of Brighton, Mich., 50 miles west of Detroit, said Carter spent most of his time in Haiti and rarely visited Michigan.
"The Lord spoke to our hearts and we take him in whenever he visits," Wiles, 70, said. "The FBI guys came to our house. This is all a lie. This man would never do that. I don't care what they try to put on him. There's just a whole bunch of things that are not true."
Carter's trial is scheduled to begin July 5.
Daniel reported from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.