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Missionary preyed on Haitian children — he was a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing,’ prosecutors say

Youngsters play near their family’s makeshift homes in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 15, 2011. On Monday, a Mennonite missionary from Virginia was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes against children in remote villages in Haiti.
Youngsters play near their family’s makeshift homes in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, August 15, 2011. On Monday, a Mennonite missionary from Virginia was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes against children in remote villages in Haiti. Miami Herald

A Virginia man was sentenced to 23 years in prison Monday for traveling to Haiti to sexually prey on children in remote villages, prosecutors said.

James Daniel Arbaugh, 40, of Stuarts Draft pleaded guilty in federal court Feb. 6 to one count of traveling in foreign commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18, according to a news release Monday night by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Court records show Arbaugh traveled to remote villages as a Mennonite missionary to “befriend and groom children,” according to ICE’s news release.

He has lived in Haiti for about 15 years, regularly traveling back to the United States, according to court documents cited by ICE in its announcement of Arbaugh’s sentencing.

As part of his guilty plea, Arbaugh admitted that in 2016 in Haiti he “engaged in illicit sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12 by touching the minor’s genitals under the minor’s clothing,” ICE’s news release says.

Arbaugh’s arrest and conviction followed an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division.

“James Arbaugh was a wolf in sheep’s clothing: He posed as a selfless missionary, when in reality, he was exploiting his position to prey on and sexually abuse vulnerable children in one of the most impoverished areas of the world,” Brian Benczkowski, assistant U.S. attorney general, said in the news release.

“The defendant abused his position of trust to prey on vulnerable victims, and their lives will never be the same,” Thomas Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said in the release.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak

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