Boston, Massachusetts - An American citizen was arrested and charged Tuesday in connection with exploiting teenage boys in Laos.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling for the District of Massachusetts and Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta of the FBI’s Boston Field Division made the announcement.

Michael Sebastian, 52, was charged by criminal complaint with engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and sex trafficking of children. Sebastian was arrested yesterday in Lynn, Massachusetts, where he has been living with his mother.  Following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston today, Sebastian was detained pending a detention and probable cause hearing scheduled for July 13, 2020.

According to the charging documents, Sebastian has been living in Laos, where he teaches English to Laotian youth.  During at least the past two years, Sebastian provided housing to at least three boys, aged 13 through 18, to whom he taught English.  In lieu of paying rent to live with him, Sebastian allegedly allowed the boys to pay off their rent by performing chores.  According to allegations in the complaint, these chores included giving Sebastian massages – which, in turn, included masturbating Sebastian.

The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Trial Attorney Leslie Fisher with the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Paruti for the District of Massachusetts are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims.