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A former US Peace Corps volunteer is facing up to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing four young girls while serving at the Umvoti Aids Centre in Greytown.
Jesse Osmun, 32, pleaded guiltyon Wednesday in a US District Court in Hartford, Connecticut, to travelling to engage in sex conduct with children. The victims were three to six years old.
He was caught on May 24 last year by a teacher at the shelter.
Also looming for the paedophile when he is sentenced on September 11 is restitution to his victims. Under court guidelines, he faces at least 14 years in jail.
“While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Greytown, Osmun committed horrific, unforgivable crimes,” said Assistant Attorney-General, Lanny Breuer.
“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. He betrayed the Peace Corps and the children he had travelled to South Africa to help.”
His attorney, Richard Meehan jr, described Osmun as remorseful.
“He has been amazingly candid with respect to his conduct, which is obviously extremely distressing, and he’s never wavered from the fact that he visited these wrongs on the young children,” Meehan said.
Authorities say Osmun persuaded the children by playing games with them and providing them with sweets.
Osmun said he helped supervise children, was left alone with them for 10 to 30 minutes and saw this as an opportunity.
He said he touched one girl and masturbated in front of her. He said he did likewise with the other three girls. Osmun admitted that he did so with one of his victims twice a week for about five months.
“I fully accept responsibility for my actions,” he told the judge.
“The crimes of this former volunteer are reprehensible,” said Peace Corps director, Aaron Williams, yesterday.
“The Peace Corps has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, and our deepest sympathies are with all the victims involved.”
Williams praised the investigators, including the SAPS. He told of background checks on Peace Corps applicants.
“The Peace Corps is committed to ensuring that the children affected by these crimes receive proper care and treatment,” Williams said.
The Peace Corps traces its roots to 1960, when then Senator John Kennedy challenged Michigan university students to serve their country by living and working in developing nations.
From this, its website says, grew a US government agency “devoted to world peace and friendship”.
The Peace Corps has sent more than 200 000 Americans to serve in 139 countries. About 150 are working in South Africa.
Osmun joined the corps in March 2010 and worked at an orphanage in Kenya. He started at the Umvoti Aids Centre in March 2011.
It has emerged that his dark activities included showing the children child pornography on his computer.
According to one investigator, a teacher saw him follow three girls into a building on May 24 last year. The teacher followed, seeing Osmun with his back to her and one of the girls near him. He seemed startled and zipped up his pants.
Later, the child told the teacher of being asked to perform oral sex.
Two days later, the centre confronted and expelled Osmun. He flew out of South Africa on June 1 last year, and the Peace Corps was alerted on June 7.
On August 4, US investigators confronted him in Connecticut.
Head of the Umvoti Aids Centre, Joan Dutton, said today she was extremely relieved Osmun had pleaded guilty to unforgivable acts.
“I am so glad that this case is almost over. He needs to be put away for a long, long time. He is a danger to society and should not be allowed to hurt another child again.”
“In the light of this incident, I believe the Peace Corps needs to conduct security checks on its volunteers. It is difficult sometimes to detect paedophiles but these checks could be a deterrent for people like Osmun.
“We are still traumatised by what has happened. Everyone is still in counselling. It has been a long and difficult road and it will be a while before we can trust volunteers with our children again.”
The centre is an NGO that does home-based care for adults and children. It also supports more than 85 Aids orphans, vulnerable children and child-headed households.
“We visit them in their villages and supply them with food parcels and other necessities. We also make sure the children go to school.” – Sapa-AP, additional reporting by Daily News Reporter, Correspondents and Sapa.