To family, friends and Fairfield University alumni and officials, he was the model citizen, a social activist whose decade of work with homeless Haitian street boys earned him an honorary degree from his alma mater.
But when Douglas Perlitz, 39, appeared Friday in federal court in Denver, he agreed to be returned to Connecticut to face a 10-count indictment alleging he used his position in the university-supported Project Pierre Toussaint program to provide shelter, food, money and other gifts to homeless street boys in exchange for sex.
It's a case that has shocked the Jesuit school located in suburban Connecticut, as questions also arise about the whereabouts of the Rev. Paul Carrier, the university's former director of campus ministry and community service, who also served as chairman of the board controlling the school's Haiti Fund. That fund provided much of the money to Project Pierre Toussaint.
A lawyer for the fund told the Connecticut Post that money for the fund "has evaporated."
The indictment against Perlitz alleges that more than $2 million was transferred from the Haiti Fund to an account in Haiti that Perlitz controlled. It is not clear what the money may have been spent on, the lawyer told the newspaper, but Perlitz is portrayed in the indictment as a predator luring the boys with comforts and gifts.
"In order to entice and persuade the children to comply with the sex acts, Perlitz provided the promise of food and shelter and also provided monetary and other benefits, including, but not limited to, U.S. and foreign currency, cellphones, other electronics, shoes, clothes and other items," the indictment says.
Perlitz allegedly groomed the children for sexual acts, serving them alcohol and watching homosexual pornography with them in his private home. Perlitz encouraged the children by telling them not to be ashamed, according to the indictment. At other times, Perlitz would tell the children that he was "crazy," the indictment said.
Perlitz, a resident of Connecticut until just two months ago, founded the Project Pierre Toussaint in Haiti's northern city of Cap-Haitien, the second most populous city in the hemisphere's poorest country, a country in which unemployment exceeds 50 percent.
Perlitz opened two residences for Haitian boys, some as young as 6 years old, reportedly befriending them on the streets and inviting them to live in his homes. Back in the United States, he spoke of his mission work, saying that he had been "inspired" to serve the poor Haitian children, The Connecticut Post reported.
But the federal indictment reveals a much darker side of the smiling, friendly minister.
Perlitz was indicted on seven counts of traveling outside the U.S. for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors and three additional counts of engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with minors. During his mission work, Perlitz allegedly abused nine of the young boys. Each charge carries a prison term of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.
Although the charges seem inconsistent with the missionary's character, the news has shocked one community in particular where Perlitz was well-known and admired. As an alum of Fairfield University, Perlitz delivered the school's commencement address in 2002 and was presented with an honorary degree.
"Individual members of the University community — faculty, staff, and students — have supported the school with their time, talents, and financial resources, as have community members who participated in services at the University's Chapel," the university said in a written statement. "The charges involved in this case are shocking and very troubling and it is important that the judicial process move forward appropriately."
But Perlitz is not the only prominent Fairfield figure whose name has come up in the investigation. The Rev. Carrier, a close friend of Perlitz at Fairfield University, raised millions for Perlitz's work in Haiti.
From 2002 to 2008, $2 million was transferred from a tax-exempt non-profit run by Carrier to an account that Perlitz controlled in Haiti, according to the indictment. Last year, Carrier was ousted from his position as chairman of the fund's board of directors.
Carrier has not been charged with any crime.
Paul Kendrick, a Fairfield University graduate and abuse victims advocate who grew suspicious on a trip to Haiti in 2003, told the Connecticut Post that he has been frustrated in trying to reach Carrier through the Society of Jesus.
"He would be someone I would want to talk to," Kendrick told the paper. "I'd like to know what did he miss, what did he not see and what should we as the advocates for victims of sexual abuse know?"