Haiti orphanage founder accused of sex abuse to be sent to Florida for trial

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An American founder of a Haitian orphanage who is accused of sexually abusing four boys there more than a decade ago has been ordered to be sent from Colorado to Florida to face prosecution.

Michael Geilenfeld, 71, was arrested in Colorado on Jan. 20 after being indicted in Florida, accused of traveling from Miami to Haiti between 2010 and 2016 « for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person under 18. » The charge he faces carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison in the event of a conviction.


In a court order signed Tuesday and released Wednesday, a federal magistrate judge in Denver said U.S. marshals should take Geilenfeld to authorities in federal court in Florida’s southern district. The order did not explain why.

Earlier this month, the magistrate judge, Scott Varholak, ruled that Geilenfeld could be released from a suburban Denver federal prison to live in a halfway house in Colorado while he is prosecuted. But federal prosecutors appealed his decision in Florida. Varholak stopped his order from taking effect until a judge in Florida ruled on the matter.

Geilenfeld’s attorney in Colorado, Brian Leedy, was out of the office and did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the order or the allegations against Geilenfeld. A Massachusetts attorney who also has represented Geilenfeld, Robert Oberkoetter, did not immediately return a telephone call or an email seeking comment.

Geilenfeld, who has faced past accusations of abusing boys, told Varholak at one court hearing that he was being held in isolation and only allowed out of his cell for two hours each morning.

Orphanage Founder Arrest

Michael Geilenfeld arrives at U.S. Bankruptcy Court, July 9, 2015, in Portland, Maine. Geilenfeld, an American founder of a Haitian orphanage who is accused of sexually abusing four boys there more than a decade ago, has been ordered to be sent from Colorado to Florida to face prosecution. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

At Geilenfeld’s most recent hearing, Leedy said Geilenfeld had the support of a « large community of individuals » who have supported him for 20 years and would help him get back and forth to court dates in Florida.

Prosecutors argued that Geilenfeld, who they say allegedly abused about 20 children over decades, could try to intimidate his victims if he is freed. They also said he poses a flight risk since, given his age, any conviction could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

Varholak called the allegations against Geilenfeld « beyond troubling » but said the government had not provided enough details to show he had actually threatened anyone or that he commited any abuse since the time alleged in the indictment.

Haitian authorities arrested Geilenfeld in September 2014 based on allegations brought by Paul Kendrick, a child advocate in Maine. Kendrick accused him of being a serial pedophile after speaking to young men who said they were abused by Geilenfeld as 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.

He and a charity associated with the orphanage, Hearts for Haiti, sued Kendrick in federal court in Maine, blaming 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.