American Founder of Haitian Orphanage Faces Sexual Abuse Charges, Previous Grand Jury Investigation Revealed

Denver, Colorado – An American founder of a Haitian orphanage, Michael Geilenfeld, has been charged with sexual abuse. According to court documents filed by his attorney, Geilenfeld was previously investigated by a grand jury about a decade ago but was not indicted. The attorney’s filing requested Geilenfeld’s release from custody while the current case proceeds, and the detention hearing has been delayed until Friday.

The indictment against Geilenfeld was made on January 18 by a grand jury in Florida. He is accused of traveling from Miami to Haiti with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under 18. Geilenfeld, 71, was arrested in Colorado last Saturday. The alleged behavior occurred between November 2006 and December 2010, during Geilenfeld’s tenure as the operator of the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys orphanage. The charge he faces carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.

Geilenfeld’s attorney, Robert Oberkoetter, has not commented on the charges, and Geilenfeld has not entered a plea. However, in the petition for his client’s release, Oberkoetter revealed that a federal grand jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, had previously investigated Geilenfeld in 2012. The jury had examined Geilenfeld’s travel documents and interviewed witnesses regarding allegations of pedophilia and child abuse. Despite this, Geilenfeld was not indicted in connection with the previous case.

Oberkoetter has accused the prosecutors of “forum shopping,” suggesting that they have been trying to have the case tried in a jurisdiction they believe will be more favorable to their case. He also argued that the government violated its own rules by not seeking permission to pursue the same case with another grand jury. Furthermore, Oberkoetter requested that Geilenfeld be tried in Colorado instead of Florida, where the charges were filed. The reason for this preference was not specified.

During the court hearing, Geilenfeld, dressed in a khaki prison uniform with his wrists and ankles shackled, informed the judge that he is being held in isolation. He stated that he is only allowed out of his cell for two hours each morning. U.S. Marshals agreed to take him to their holding cells in the courthouse after the hearing so that he could speak privately with his lawyer via phone.

Authorities in Haiti have been investigating sex abuse allegations against Geilenfeld for a long time. He was previously arrested in September 2014 based on allegations made by a child advocate from Maine, Paul Kendrick. Kendrick accused Geilenfeld of being a serial pedophile after speaking to young men who claimed they were abused by Geilenfeld when they were children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Geilenfeld’s case was dismissed in 2015 after spending 237 days in a Haitian prison. Geilenfeld and a charity associated with the orphanage, Hearts with Haiti, subsequently sued Kendrick in federal court in Maine, alleging that Kendrick was responsible for Geilenfeld’s imprisonment, damage to his reputation, and loss of millions of dollars in donations. The lawsuit was ended in 2019 when Kendrick’s insurance companies paid $3 million to Hearts with Haiti, but nothing to Geilenfeld.