American Founder of Haitian Orphanage to Appear in Court on Sexual Abuse Charges

Michael Geilenfeld arrives at U.S. Bankruptcy Court, July 9, 2015, in Portland, Maine. Geilenfeld, the American founder of a Haitian orphanage who had charges of sexual abuse against him dropped in the island nation, was set to appear in federal court Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, on new charges brought by U.S. authorities. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)


DENVER (AP) — The American founder of a Haitian orphanage who had charges of sexual abuse against him dropped in the island nation was set to appear in federal court Thursday on new charges brought by U.S. authorities.

Michael Geilenfeld, 71, is accused of traveling from Miami to Haiti “for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person under 18,” according to a Jan. 18 grand jury indictment issued in Florida. He was arrested in Colorado.

The behavior took place between November 2006 and December 2010, according to the indictment, a time period when Geilenfeld was operating the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys orphanage. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Geilenfeld made an initial appearance in court Monday. He has not yet entered a plea, but has vehemently denied past accusations of sexual abuse that had been levied against him. His Massachusetts attorney, Robert Oberkoetter, declined to comment. Oberkoetter was not present at Monday’s hearing but is scheduled to represent Geilenfeld virtually at future hearings, according to court records.

Authorities in Haiti have long investigated sex abuse allegations against Geilenfeld and arrested him in September 2014 based on allegations made against him by a child advocate in Maine, Paul Kendrick. Kendrick accused Geilenfeld of being a serial pedophile after speaking to young men who claimed they were abused by Geilenfeld when they were boys in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital where he founded the orphanage in 1985.

Geilenfeld called the claims “vicious, vile lies,” and his case was dismissed in 2015 after he spent 237 days in prison in Haiti. At some point, Geilenfeld and a charity associated with the orphanage, Hearts for Haiti, sued Kendrick in federal court in Maine. The suit blamed Kendrick for Geilenfeld’s imprisonment, damage to his reputation and the loss of millions of dollars in donations.

Kendrick’s insurance companies ended the lawsuit in 2019 by paying $3 million to Hearts with Haiti, but nothing to Geilenfeld.

At Monday’s hearing, prosecutors were granted their request that Geilenfeld be kept in custody while the new case against him proceeds. At Thursday’s detention hearing, they could present evidence to show why he should continue to be held behind bars and also start the process of sending him to Miami to be prosecuted.

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