NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A Colorado man pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges that he sexually abused nine boys at a school he founded in Haiti for poor children.
Authorities accuse Douglas Perlitz of enticing children at the Project Pierre Toussaint school in Cap-Haitien into sex acts by promising them food, shelter, cash, cell phones, electronics, and shoes. They say he also withheld benefits and threatened to expel the boys if they refused his wishes.
Perlitz, 39, who founded the school when he lived in Connecticut, pleaded not guilty in federal court in New Haven to charges of traveling outside the United States to engage in sexual conduct with minors and with engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with minors. He was arrested last month at his home in Eagle, Colo., and remains in custody.
A bond hearing that began Thursday was reset for Oct. 19. Prosecutors argue in court papers that Perlitz should remain behind bars, saying he poses a "clear and continuing danger" to children.
They characterize him as a sexual predator who used a charitable institution to sexually molest vulnerable children for a decade. They said Perlitz told an investigator that the alleged victims of molestation "need to move on and get over it."
According to the indictment, school volunteers and staff members were afraid to come forward with the allegations because Perlitz controlled the school's operations and "utilized the fear of unemployment and the difficult economic situation in Haiti." The indictment alleges Perlitz used his relationship with a religious leader and board members of a fund maintained by the school's fundraising arm to continue to conceal or try to hide his sexual conduct.
The investigation is continuing, prosecutors say.
According to court filings, Perlitz admitted "some boundaries were crossed" when he allowed children to stay overnight in his room but he denied any sexual contact with minors. The school initially served mostly street children as young as 6 and later grew to include a residential program for high schoolers.
During the bond hearing Thursday, Perlitz attorney William Dow III said his client should be released from prison pending trial. Dow said Perlitz has surrendered his passport and would be monitored electronically if released.
"There's no evidence, no claim that anyone in the United States has been endangered by my client," Dow said. "He is a man not only with a clean record but an admirable record who enjoys the support of many, many people."
Dow offered to pledge properties of Perlitz's relatives worth $1.9 million to $2.3 million to ensure he doesn't flee and proposed that Perlitz stay with a couple at their home in Fairfield.
Magistrate Joan Margolis said she might consider a larger bond of $4 million to $5 million and she raised issues related to the housing arrangement.
Prosecutors argued that electronic monitoring only tells authorities where a person is, not what they are doing.
"There are simply no conditions of release that can assure the safety of children in the community and his appearance in court," prosecutors wrote in court papers.
They cited the length of the alleged crimes, Perlitz' extensive international travel and the access he had to millions of dollars in donations.
Perlitz previously lived in Fairfield County, Conn. Each count in the indictment carries up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.