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Originally published Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM

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Man convicted of sexually abusing Haitian children

A Michigan man was convicted Thursday of traveling to Haiti to sexually abuse young residents of a group home he ran for poor children in the Caribbean country.

Associated Press

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MIAMI —

A Michigan man was convicted Thursday of traveling to Haiti to sexually abuse young residents of a group home he ran for poor children in the Caribbean country.

After 90 minutes of deliberation, jurors convicted Matthew Andrew Carter, of Brighton, Mich., on five counts of traveling from Florida for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with minors, along with one count of attempting child sex tourism.

Carter, who also went by the names "William Charles Harcourt" and "Bill Carter," ran the Morning Star Center in Haiti, first in Croix-des-Bouquets and then in the capital of Port-au-Prince, from 1995 until 2011. His attorneys have described him as a military veteran who became a missionary and wanted to lift a generation of Haitian children out of poverty through education and Bible study.

Carter, 67, had no reaction as the verdict was read, but denied the allegations when he testified Tuesday. Both prosecutors and Carter's attorneys declined comment after the trial.

Former Morning Star residents testified in Miami federal court during the three-week trial that Carter forced them to perform sexual acts on him when they were children.

In closing arguments Thursday morning, defense attorney Stuart Adelstein said there were no photographs, videos, DNA or other physical evidence that supported the witnesses' testimonies.

"There is absolutely nothing to corroborate or verify what people said," Adelstein said.

Prosecutor Bonnie Kane said Carter targeted impoverished and vulnerable children and returned to Haiti year after year to force the children to satisfy his sexual demands.

"His pattern and routine was clear and well-established," Kane said.

Carter forced the children to engage in sexual acts with him in exchange for food, clothes, toys, a place to sleep and an education, Kane said.

"Nothing was for free at the Morning Star Center," she said.

U.S. authorities arrested Carter on May 8, 2011, at Miami International Airport, just before he could board a flight to Haiti.

Carter testified that Haitian national police investigated multiple complaints of sexual misconduct on his part at the center over the last decade. Haitian authorities never charged him with any crime, nor did they shut down the center until after his arrest in the U.S.

"Morning Star stayed open because there was nothing improper going on," Adelstein said.

Thousands of children in Haiti live in orphanages even though at least one parent may be living. The Haitian government took the rare step of shutting down the Morning Star Center after Carter's 2011 arrest.

Judge Joan Lenard scheduled Carter's sentencing hearing for May 20. The first count of traveling from Florida to Haiti for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with minors carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Carter faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for each of the remaining charges.

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Follow Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jnkay.

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