A man who sexually abused children at a center for poor youth that he operated in Haiti was sentenced to 165 years in prison in Florida on Wednesday, according to prosecutors.
Matthew Andrew Carter, 68, was charged in February with five counts of travelling in foreign commerce from the U.S. to Haiti in order to pursue illicit sexual conduct with children and one count of attempting to do so, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida. Judge Joan A. Lenard sentenced Carter to 165 years in prison — the maximum prosecutors requested during Carter's February hearing. The judge tacked on a lifetime of supervised release if he's ever freed.
A U.S. Department of Justice statement said the evidence presented at Carter’s trial showed he traveled to Haiti under the guise of helping impoverished children at a home he ran called Morning Star. The children who lived at Morning Star came from homes in which their families could not financially support them.
“For 15 years, Matthew Carter, under the guise of serving as an international humanitarian, sexually abused more than 50 Haitian children,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. “He held himself out as a savior to vulnerable children in Haiti, but in fact cruelly forced those children to choose between poverty and submitting to repeated sexual abuse,” he added.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Carter on May 8, 2011 after federal criminal charges were filed against him, said Nicole Navas, a spokewoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Sixteen victims who lived at Morning Star testified during the trial that Carter would force them to exchange sexual acts for food, permission to stay at the center and school tuition, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Four boys also testified at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. According to The Associated Press, one of the boys turned to Carter and said, "I don't hate you. I do forgive you. You did do some good for me, but I think society doesn't need someone like you, that you should be locked up for what you did.”
Carter had previously been tried but acquitted on counts of sexual child abuse in Cairo, London and Florida.
“Crimes against children are some of the most heinous our agency investigates," ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale said Wednesday. "It is even more despicable that Mr. Carter used his position of trust to abuse children who relied on him for care.”
“Today’s sentence should serve as notice to other child predators. We will find you, arrest you and make sure that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”