A Facade of Education: Former US Teacher Pleads Guilty to Sexually Exploiting Lao Children

A Facade of Education: Former US Teacher Pleads Guilty to Sexually Exploiting Lao Children
FILE: this image is used only for representational purpose

Michael Sebastian, a former English teacher in Laos and convicted sex offender, is scheduled to be sentenced by a United States federal district court judge next year after pleading guilty to sexually exploiting children in Laos.

The 56-year-old Lynn, Massachusetts, native was initially arrested back in July 2020, after returning to the US, for engaging and attempting to engage in sexual activities with three minors in northern Laos during his time as a teacher between May 2018 and September 2019. 

According to Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy, the American national allowed disadvantaged students to live with him in exchange for money by performing explicit sexual activities.

However, it was not until 20 December this year that Michael pleaded guilty to the charges against him.

Sebastian, now a convict, is set to face his sentence on 28 March 2024. He will also be subjected to a maximum penalty of 90 years in prison and lifetime supervised release, as well as paying restitution to his victims and registering himself as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

Criminal cases, such as Sebastian’s, are complex proceedings overseen by a judge, with the prosecutor representing the state and the defendant entering pleas and presenting a defense. The trial involves opening statements, witness testimonies, and closing arguments, ultimately leading to jury deliberations and a verdict. Sentencing is determined based on statutory guidelines, and the convicted defendant may choose to appeal the decision. 

This case had been under the investigation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with assistance from the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. It was brought to the court’s attention by the Justice Department as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006.

Michael first arrived in Luang Prabang in 2008 before starting the S.M.I.L.E (Supporting Multitudes In Life and Education) project, a program which offers free education, nutritional aid, and healthcare assistance to impoverished monks, students, and families in the province.