A Mennonite missionary from Virginia was sentenced to 23 years in prison for raping an underage boy in Haiti.
James Daniel Arbaugh, 40, of Stuarts Draft, received the sentence on Monday in federal court, according to a news release by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in February.
As part of his plea, Arbaugh admitted he went back and forth to Haiti over the course of 15 years as a Mennonite missionary. He would visit small towns and villages and become friends with, and "groom" children for sexual abuse, according to the release. He said on at least one occasion he touched a young boy's genitals under his clothes. He also allegedly had sex with at least 21 boys between the ages of five and 17, according to court documents.
“James Arbaugh was a wolf in sheep’s clothing: he posed as a selfless missionary when in reality he was exploiting his position to prey on and sexually abuse vulnerable children in one of the most impoverished areas of the world,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in the release. “Today’s sentencing is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners to hold sexual predators like Arbaugh accountable for their deplorable crimes."
Arbaugh told a counselor about his abuse of kids on Sept. 11, 2017, and was reported to social services. Federal agents searched Arbaugh's computer and found pictures of the 5-year-old son of a church pastor in Haiti, according to The Mennonite. Arbaugh admitted he molested the boy.
Arbaugh was a "tentmaker" in Haiti and showed films about Jesus, according to a website about his ministry.
“The defendant abused his position of trust to prey on vulnerable victims, and their lives will never be the same,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said in the release. “As this case indicates, our office is committed to working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to identify and vigorously prosecute those who exploit children.”
After his sentence is served, Arbaugh will be subjected to a lifetime of supervised release.