NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 8/18/2010 1:35:46 PM ET 2010-08-18T17:35:46

A Colorado man admitted Wednesday to sexually abusing up to eight boys at a school he founded in Haiti for street children.

Douglas Perlitz pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., Wednesday to one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, a charge that carries up to 30 years in prison. Sentencing was set for Dec. 21.

Perlitz is a former Connecticut resident who now lives in Eagle, Colorado. He was charged last year with enticing boys at the Project Pierre Toussaint School in Cap-Haitien into sex acts by promising them food, shelter and other items.

Prosecutors say Perlitz withheld benefits and threatened to expel the boys if they refused his wishes. He founded the school in 1997 when he lived in Connecticut.

He began traveling to Haiti in 1991 for a volunteer mission and started the school to help the many street children in the poverty-ravaged area, according to the grand jury indictment.

There, he befriended male children and recruited them to his school, court records state.

The News-Times in Danbury, Conn., reported that Perlitz, 40, admitted to the court that he had sex with one boy, but did not object to the prosecutor's claim he had sex with up to eight.

The newspaper said the Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic charity, had given money to Perlitz for the school. He also received donations from wealthy Catholics in Fairfield and Westchester County.

The prosecution plan to ask for a sentence of 7 years, 20 months and 9 years, 7 months, the News-Times said.

Haiti and the United Nations had appealed to the U.S. to prosecute Perlitz, after he left the island as police there began an investigation, the paper said.

Perlitz's supporters, the News-Times reported, had said the charges were made up to allow other people to take over the school.

The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.

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