Thursday, October 11, 2012

Connecticut Resident and Former Peace Corps Volunteer Sentenced for Abusing Minors in South Africa

Officials from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the sentencing of a U.S. citizen for crimes he committed while he was a volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps. He was sentenced Oct. 10, 2012, in a U.S. court in the state of Connecticut.

Jesse Osmun, 33, was sentenced Wednesday, October 10, 2012 in Hartford, Conn., to 180 months in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for sexually abusing four minor girls, all under the age of 6, while he was a volunteer in South Africa.

"Thanks to the close collaboration of HSI's attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, a U.S. citizen has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes he committed here in South Africa," said Peter Vincent, director of HSI's Office of International Affairs. "As this sentence clearly demonstrates, there will be no refuge for U.S. citizens who believe that they may victimize children outside the United States. No place is too distant or too remote to escape the attention of law enforcement. Thanks to an extensive investigation we worked jointly with our South African counterparts, Jesse Osmun will now spend a considerable amount of time in a U.S. jail. Law enforcement will hunt down child predators to the ends of the earth to protect innocent children from being violated."

"This case has shown that both the United States and South Africa have no tolerance when it comes to the abuse of innocent children," said U.S. Embassy Pretoria Chargé d'Affairs Virginia E. Palmer. "Through close collaboration between U.S. and South African law enforcement officials we have been able to close this sad case and bring justice to this criminal. Our heart goes out to the young victims involved."

"I appreciate the well-coordinated efforts of the Department of Justice, Peace Corps Office of Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations and the South African Police Service, to ensure that justice was served in this case," said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director of the Peace Corps. "The Peace Corps has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, and our deepest sympathies are with all the victims involved."

According to court documents, Osmun was sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer in early 2010 and began his service at a non-governmental organization (NGO) in South Africa that provides education, food and other services to children, many of whom are orphans. In May 2011, Osmun resigned from the Peace Corps after being confronted by the program director of the NGO with allegations of sexual abuse. He returned to the United States June 2, 2011. Shortly thereafter, HSI special agents, working with members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI), began investigating the allegations of abuse.

The investigation revealed that, while volunteering at the NGO, Osmun enticed four young girls, all of whom were under the age of six, to engage in illicit sexual acts with him. Osmun persuaded the children to engage in this conduct by playing games with them and providing them with candy. Osmun sexually abused one of the victims approximately two times a week over the course of approximately five months.

On Aug. 4, 2011, Osmun was arrested at his home in Milford, Conn. On June 27, 2012, he pleaded guilty to one count of traveling from the United States to South Africa to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children.

Osmun has been detained since his arrest.

HSI targets, investigates and prosecutes sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. Since the creation of HSI and the passage of the PROTECT Act – a U.S. law – HSI has expanded the resources devoted to these types of investigations.

"PROTECT" is an acronym which stands for "Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today." Part of this U.S. law authorizes fines and imprisonment for U.S. citizens or residents who engage in illicit sexual conduct abroad.

In the nine years since the federal laws protecting children outside the United States from American sexual predators were significantly strengthened, HSI has arrested 93 suspects on child sex tourism charges.

Numerous agencies in the United States and South Africa participated in this extensive investigation. United States agencies included: HSI; Peace Corps, Office of Inspector General; and the U.S. Department of State's regional security officer in Durban, South Africa.

In South Africa, the investigation was conducted and coordinated by the NPA and SAPS DPCI.

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