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Peace Corps volunteer guilty of abusing children

By Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 9:59 PM EDT, Wed June 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Osmun admitted he sexually abused 4 girls, ICE says
  • "He was supposed to be helping young children in need," assistant attorney general says
  • "He has accepted responsibility for what he did," Osmun's father says
  • A fund for the victims is being set up

(CNN) -- A Connecticut man pleaded guilty Wednesday to traveling to South Africa to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children while he was a Peace Corps volunteer.

Jesse Osmun, 32, of Milford, Connecticut, admitted that he sexually abused four girls during his time as a volunteer in South Africa, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a news release.

"He was supposed to be helping young children in need, many of whom were orphans, but instead, he preyed upon them, sexually abusing several young girls under the age of six," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. "He betrayed the Peace Corps and the children he had traveled to South Africa to help."

"The crimes of this former volunteer are reprehensible," said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. "The Peace Corps has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, and our deepest sympathies are with all the victims involved."

He said the corps would ensure that the victims are properly cared for and treated.

Osmun's father, Andrew, said in a telephone interview that his son joined the Peace Corps with the goal of helping others, not of committing any crimes.

"I love my son very much; I'm 100% supportive of him; he has accepted responsibility for what he did and I believe that's all I can say," the elder Osmun said. "I'm very proud of him, and I trust that, in time, he'll have a future" like the one he set out to have when he joined the Peace Corps, his father said.

Osmun's lawyer, Richard Meehan, did not immediately return a call.

Osmun joined the Peace Corps in March 2009 and was sent to South Africa, where he worked for a non-governmental organization that provides education, food and other services to children, the release said.

After the NGO's program director confronted him with the allegations, he resigned from the corps in May 2011 and returned to the United States the following month.

Shortly thereafter, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, the Peace Corps' Office of Inspector General and members of the South African Police Services investigated and determined that Osmun had engaged in sex acts with four girls, the release said. "Osmun persuaded the children to engage in this conduct by playing games with them and providing them with candy," it said. "Osmun sexually abused one of the victims approximately two times a week over the course of approximately five months."

He was arrested at his home in Milford, Connecticut, in August 2011 and has been detained since then.

Scheduled for sentencing on September 19, Osmun faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney David Fein said the government is seeking restitution from Osmun and the Department of Justice, the Peace Corps, and the U.S. Embassy in South Africa are setting up a fund to aid the victims.

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