PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haitian authorities on Thursday closed an orphanage for boys founded three decades ago by a U.S. citizen facing accusations he sexually abused children in his care.

Police padlocked the doors at the St. Joseph Home for Boys in the Delmas 91 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. About two dozen shouting men tried to prevent the closure, but a government agent scattered the group by firing a gun into the air.

Police and judicial officials locked the main door of the orphanage before the men, many of them employees and former residents of the home, returned to try again to stop the shutdown.

Haitian investigators looking into new allegations of sexual abuse against orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld have sought to detain him in recent days but have been unable to locate the Iowa native and former Catholic brother. He has had travel restrictions placed on him by Haitian authorities, but it is not known if they seized his U.S. passport.

In an Oct. 29 court order seen by The Associated Press, Judge Bernard Sainvil allowed all of Geilenfeld’s charitable operations in Haiti to be shuttered by authorities due to allegations of “rape and sexual aggression.”

The order covered the orphanage that was closed Thursday as well as the Wings of Hope home for physically and mentally disabled children and young adults in the hills above the capital and a newer facility called Trinity House in the southern coastal city of Jacmel. It was not immediately clear if police also shuttered those facilities Thursday.


Geilenfeld has repeatedly denied accusations of molesting boys under his care in Haiti.

He filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. in which a jury in late July ordered Maine activist Paul Kendrick of Freeport to pay $14.5 million in damages to him and North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti after finding Kendrick defamed them by leading an email blitz accusing Geilenfeld of sexually abusing Haitian children.

In the trial of that case in Maine, Geilenfeld testified he believed the accusations of sexual abuse lingered against him in impoverished Haiti because he is a gay man in what he described as a homophobic country.

Haitian officials say they are looking at evidence from a new batch of alleged victims and re-examining an initial criminal case against him.

Geilenfeld spent 237 days in detention in the earlier case before being released in April by a Haitian judge who dismissed the charges in a brief trial that was not attended by the accusers, now adults. But the justice minister granted a re-examination of the case and it is now in court again on appeal.

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