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American Indicted in U.S. For Laos Child-Sex Trafficking

English teacher accused of using educational charity in Luang Prabang as a front to sexually abuse children

Michael Sebastian (center) has been indicted in the US on three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and three counts of sex trafficking involving children
Michael Sebastian (center) has been indicted in the US on three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and three counts of sex trafficking involving children.

An American man who ran an educational charity in Laos has been indicted in the U.S. on pedophilia and sex-trafficking charges for his illicit Southeast Asian activities.

Michael Sebastian, 52, was indicted Aug. 28 in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, accused of using a small charity he formed in Luang Prabang as a front for grooming boys, including three boys, ages 13-18, he provided housing for.

He was arrested on July 7 at his mother’s home in Lynn, Mass. and was released to home confinement following a detention hearing on July 31. Indicted on three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and three counts of sex trafficking involving children, he faces 30 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“In lieu of paying rent to live with him, Sebastian allegedly allowed the boys to pay off their rent by performing chores,” the Department of Justice notes in a statement. “According to the charging documents, these chores included giving Sebastian massages — which, in turn, included masturbating Sebastian.”

FBI agents and a team of investigators in Laos began looking into the expat’s doings after they learned that he was allowing teenage boys to live in his rented home for the equivalent of 350 baht a month and told the boys that they could earn “credits” toward that amount by performing various services for him.

These services allegedly included sex acts, for which the boys could earn 30 baht off their rent for each act, according to the prosecution.

Sebastian arrived as a tourist in Laos in 2008, settled there and began the charity called the S.M.I.L.E. Project, whose initials stand for Supporting Multitudes in Life and Education.

“My mission is to offer FREE education, nutritional aid and healthcare assistance to impoverished, abandoned, orphaned and underprivileged youth lacking the funds and resources for quality education and nourishment in an effort to break the cycle of poverty and create economic mobility for the students, their families, and indeed whole communities,” the American wrote on his website.

A longer version of this story was originally published by UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.