BEIRUT

World

FBI investigates former ACS teacher for child molestation

  • File - This combination of photos provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows William James Vahey in 2013, left, and 2004. (AP Photo/FBI)

MINNEAPOLIS: The FBI asked for the public’s help Tuesday to identify victims of a suspected child predator who worked at international schools, including Beirut’s American Community School, for more than four decades before committing suicide last month in Minnesota.

William James Vahey, 64, killed himself in Luverne on March 21, the FBI said. That was two days after agents in Houston filed for a warrant to search a computer thumb drive that belonged to Vahey, a U.S. citizen with residences in London and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. An employee of the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, where Vahey had recently taught ninth grade world history and geography, gave the drive to the U.S. Embassy there.

The storage device contained pornographic images of at least 90 boys, ages 12 to 14, who appeared to be drugged and unconscious, the FBI said. The agency’s spokeswoman in Houston, Special Agent Shauna Dunlap, told the Associated Press that investigators suspect all of the boys in the images were students of Vahey’s, going back to 2008, and that he had molested all of them.

“When confronted about the images by a school administrator, Vahey confessed that he was molested as a child and had preyed on boys his entire life, giving them sleeping pills prior to the molestation,” according to a statement posted on the FBI’s website, with links for potential victims.

The photos were cataloged with dates and locations that corresponded with overnight field trips that Vahey had taken with students since 2008, but he had led students on such trips for his entire career, the FBI said.

“I’m concerned that he may have preyed on many other students prior to 2008,” Special Agent Patrick Fransen of Houston said in the statement. “I’ve never seen another case where an individual may have molested this many children over such a long period of time.”

The director general of the American Nicaraguan School, Gloria Doll, said by phone from Managua that Vahey was “famous for wanting to lead student experience trips.” She said that’s why several of his previous schools hired him.

Doll said that, as far as she knew, none of her students had been molested. Vahey started teaching at her school last August but had not led any trips for her school before the allegations surfaced. She said he had been due to take a group to a model United Nations event in the Dominican Republic the very next day.

“We realized we had probably been spared what was happening,” Doll said.

Vahey’s career included posts at the Tehran American School in Iran from 1972-73; the ACS of Beirut in Lebanon, 1973-75; the American School of Madrid in Spain, 1975-76; the Passargad School in Ahwaz, Iran, 1976-78; the ACS in Athens, Greece, 1978-80; the Saudi Aramco Schools in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 1980-92; the Jakarta International School in Indonesia, 1992-2002; the Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela, 2002-09; and the Southbank International School in London, 2009-2013. He coached boys basketball at several schools, the FBI said.

The FBI is concerned that some victims might not even know they were abused.

“He had access to children because of his position of trust,” Fransen said. “He created a system that gave him the opportunity and the means to molest children. The manner in which he committed these acts – while the boys were unconscious – may have inhibited them from knowing what happened, making it impossible for them to come forward at the time of the molestation.”

The FBI’s Houston office is leading the investigation because its squad for crimes against children often goes to Latin America to assist with investigations, Dunlap said. Vahey’s death didn’t stop the investigation because the FBI is obligated to reach out to the potential victims, she said.

FBI officials declined to say why they believe Vahey went to Luverne, a town of about 4,700 people about 160 miles southwest of Minneapolis, where he killed himself at a motel.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 24, 2014, on page 11.
Advertisement

Comments

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
Summary

The FBI asked for the public's help Tuesday to identify victims of a suspected child predator who worked at international schools, including Beirut's American Community School, for more than four decades before committing suicide last month in Minnesota.

William James Vahey, 64, killed himself in Luverne on March 21, the FBI said.

The storage device contained pornographic images of at least 90 boys, ages 12 to 14, who appeared to be drugged and unconscious, the FBI said.

Vahey's career included posts at the Tehran American School in Iran from 1972-73; the ACS of Beirut in Lebanon, 1973-75; the American School of Madrid in Spain, 1975-76; the Passargad School in Ahwaz, Iran, 1976-78; the ACS in Athens, Greece, 1978-80; the Saudi Aramco Schools in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 1980-92; the Jakarta International School in Indonesia, 1992-2002; the Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela, 2002-09; and the Southbank International School in London, 2009-2013 . He coached boys basketball at several schools, the FBI said.

The FBI is concerned that some victims might not even know they were abused.


Advertisement

FOLLOW THIS ARTICLE

Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here