Virginia Missionary Slapped with 23-Year Sentence After Traveling to Haiti to Sexually Abuse Children

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A Virginia man who traveled to Haiti to groom and engage in illicit sexual activity with a minor has been sentenced to 23 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

James Daniel Arbaugh, 40, of Stuarts Draft, Va., posed as a Mennonite missionary, traveling to remote towns and villages in the island nation, where he preyed on vulnerable children and, in at least in one case, sexually abused a minor under the age of 12. In a news release, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said Arbaugh lived in Haiti for approximately 15 years and traveled back and forth to the U.S. during that time.

In 2016, James Daniel Arbaugh confessed to touching a child inappropriately under his/her clothes. (Image courtesy of NewsAmericas)

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division likened Abrbuagh to “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” saying 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.”

“ … Today’s sentencing is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners to hold sexual predators like Arbaugh accountable for their deplorable crimes,” Benczkowski said.

Arbaugh pleaded guilty in February to one count of traveling in foreign commerce from the U.S. to Haiti in or about 2016 to engage in illicit sexual activity with a juvenile, ICE said in a statement. The faux missionary admitted to touching the child’s genitals under the child’s clothing, according to the agency.

U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth K. Dillion sentenced Arbaugh to 276 months in prison, followed by a life term of supervised release.

“This kind of heinous and evil activity has no place here, abroad or in-transit,” Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Patrick Lechleitner said. ” … Those seeking to commit such abhorrent crimes and evade detection cannot hide from our highly skilled and dedicated investigators.”

The probe into Arbaugh’s crimes was led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in conjunction with the Harrisonburg Police Department.

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