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Orphanage Founder Wins $3M Defamation Settlement Despite Haitian Boys Coming Forward with Stories of Sexual Abuse

Despite testimony from alleged male victims, insurance companies agreed to pay a $3 million settlement after a Haitian orphanage owner accused of sexually abusing young boys sued his accuser in a defamation lawsuit.

The settlement, which benefits Hearts for Haiti, recently ended a lawsuit in the state of Maine that has dragged out since 2013 regarding orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld, an attorney told The Associated Press.

After activist Paul Kendrick accused Geilenfeld of sexually abusing children in his care at his St. Joseph Family organization he operated, Geilenfeld waged a lawsuit against Kendrick for defamation.

Geilenfeld, however won’t get to touch the settlement money Kendrick’s insurance companies agreed to pay, The Associated Press reported.

The big winner is Hearts for Haiti, the primary funding source for the St. Joseph Family serving former street children, child slaves and people with disabilities in Haiti, according to the Hearts for Haiti website.

“It does not mean the brave victims coming forward have done so in vain,” Kendrick told The Associated Press. “The testimonies in evidence against Geilenfeld belong in a criminal investigation.”

Kendrick told the news agency he’s spoken to 16 young men who have said Geilenfeld abused them in Port-au-Prince years ago when they were boys.

Geilenfeld founded the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-Au-Prince in 1985, and it is one of several facilities the St. Joseph’s organization oversees.

The Port-Au-Prince facility was closed by Haitian authorities in 2015 after Geilenfeld was arrested in response to the sexual abuse allegations against him, but the facility was reopened for boys 18 and older some months later after Geilenfeld’s release from Haitian prison, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Attorneys for Hearts With Haiti and Geilenfeld didn’t immediately return reporter phone calls and emails seeking comment, and the whereabouts of Geilenfeld, a U.S. citizen, are unknown, The Associated Press reported.

Geilenfeld, an Iowa native, testified in December of 2018 that the abuse allegations were “vicious, vile lies,” and he contended that Kendrick’s allegations caused him to be falsely imprisoned for 237 days in Haiti.

In the defamation lawsuit, he also said Kendrick cost the North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti charity millions.

Despite testimony from seven men who said Geilenfeld sexually abused them as boys, an earlier federal jury awarded $14.5 million to Geilenfeld and Hearts with Haiti in 2015, according to multiple news outlets.

The verdict was overturned and bounced to state court when an appeals court decided it should have never been a federal matter.

In trial, Geilenfeld testified he believed he was being accused because he is a gay man serving a homophobic country, the Washington Times reported.

He has since dropped the defamation claim, clearing the way for a settlement, Kendrick’s attorney Mark Randall told The Associated Press.

“The end result is that children are safer,” he said.

The accusations against Geilenfeld evoke several recent cases of alleged sexual abuse regarding Haitian children.

James Daniel Arbaugh, 40, of Stuarts Draft, Va., traveled to Haiti to groom and engage in illicit sexual activity with a minor, according to federal prosecutors.

He was sentenced to 23 years in prison in July of 2018.

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

Daniel John Pye, 36, formerly of Bradenton, was sentenced to 40 years in prison January of 2018 after he was convicted of traveling to Haiti to engage in sex with minor girls in his care as operator of an orphanage, the Miami Herald reported. 

United Nations peacekeepers from Sri Lanka were accused of sexually abusing Haitian children in 2017, and a decade earlier, a group of Haitian children identified 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers in a child sex ring that went on for three years, The Associated Press reported.

The allegations against Geilenfeld are now in the hands of law enforcement officials, Randall told The Associated Press.

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