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Peace Corps volunteer charged with sexual abuse of children in Africa

By Jim Barnett, CNN
  • Jesse Osmun, 31, worked at a preschool facility in Greytown, South Africa
  • A criminal complaint alleges he molested at least five girls under the age of 6
  • He could be sentenced to 30 years in prison if found guilty

(CNN) -- A former Peace Corps volunteer from Connecticut is charged with sexual abuse of several preschool children in South Africa last year.

Jesse Osmun, 31, worked at an AIDS center in Greytown, South Africa, that provided education, food and other services to children between the ages of 3 and 15, a criminal complaint says.

Osmun, while volunteering at the center's preschool facility, allegedly sexually molested at least five girls under the age of 6, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with one of the girls, approximately 5 years old, twice a week for five months.

Osmun was confronted by the AIDS center program manager in May 2011 after a preschool teacher alleged that when she observed him in a toy room of the facility with three little girls, Osmun appeared startled and zipped up his pants.

The complaint states that one of the children told a school official Osmun had given her candy in exchange for oral sex.

Osmun initially denied any illicit activity but "subsequently admitted that he had touched one of the children under her clothes," the complaint says.

It says Osmun asked to resign from the Peace Corps and returned to the United States on June 2.

An investigation was launched into the sexual allegations, and Osmun was arrested Thursday at his home in Milford, Connecticut, where, the complaint states, "Osmun began to admit that he molested children (at the preschool) and provide details about the molestation."

He appeared before a federal judge in Bridgeport and was detained.

Osmun's attorney, federal public defender Sarah Merriam, declined to comment.

Osmun would face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted of the charge of traveling outside of the United States to engage in sexual conduct with a minor.

"Mr. Osmun is charged with a shocking breach of the power entrusted to him as a Peace Corps volunteer," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer. "Allegedly, he repeatedly sexually abused five minor girls under the age of 6 -- horrific crimes."

The Peace Corps issued a statement saying it "was made aware of the allegations against the former volunteer after Osmun resigned from Peace Corps and departed South Africa. Once notified, the agency immediately contacted the appropriate authorities.

"The Peace Corps will continue to cooperate with American and South African law enforcement authorities," it said, adding that all Peace Corps volunteers undergo background checks.