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FBI Seeking Public Assistance in the Investigation of an International Teacher Suspected of Molesting Children Abroad

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From left: William James Vahey is shown in U.S. passport photographs taken in December 2013, July 2004, May 1995,  and April 1986. From left: William James Vahey is shown in U.S. passport photographs taken in December 2013, July 2004, May 1995, and April 1986.

WASHINGTON D.C. - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seeking the public’s assistance to identify victims of suspected international child predator William James Vahey.

Vahey, a United States citizen, was employed as a teacher in various private American schools abroad since 1972. Vahey was 64 years old at the time of his death by suicide in Luverne, Minnesota, on March 21, 2014.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed on March 19, 2014 in the United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, FBI special agents sought a search warrant to access and search a USB thumb drive belonging to Vahey. The USB drive was provided to the FBI by an employee of the American Nicaraguan School, located in Pista Suburbana, Managua, Nicaragua.

An employee of the school filed a complaint with the FBI alleging the USB drive contained pornographic images of minor males who appeared to be asleep or unconscious. According to the report, the minors appeared to be middle school-aged, approximately 12 to 14 years old.

According to the employee, the folders containing the pornographic images were titled with locations and corresponding dates the employee believed referenced locations Vahey had previously traveled with students. The employee stated that Vahey had been teaching ninth grade world history and advanced geography at the school since August 12, 2013.

According to the report, when the employee confronted Vahey about the images, he confessed he was molested as a child and admitted he molested boys throughout his entire life. He further reportedly admitted giving the minors sleeping pills prior to the molestation. The ongoing investigation has not yet identified what drugs, if any, were administered to any of the minor victims. The American Nicaraguan School terminated Vahey’s employment on March 12, 2014.

Through the ongoing investigation, FBI agents have reviewed photographs dating back to 2008 that depict at least 90 alleged victims. While the review is ongoing, the FBI is seeking to notify individuals of the existence of the investigation and encourage additional potential victims to come forward. In addition to foreign nationals, the schools were attended by the children of American diplomats, military personnel stationed overseas, and other American citizens working abroad.

In 1969, Vahey was arrested in California on six counts of child molestation. Vahey pled guilty to one count of child molestation and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, followed by five years’ probation. Vahey’s conviction required him to register with the state of California’s sex offender registry for the remainder of his life. However, Vahey had not renewed his registration as a sex offender since 1970.

Further investigation revealed Vahey engaged in extensive international travel over the past four decades, working as a middle school and/or high school teacher at several American international schools in at least nine different countries, including Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Iran, Spain, and Lebanon.

Vahey worked in numerous positions which would have afforded him close access to the students who attended these schools. In addition to teaching, Vahey coached boys on middle school, junior varsity, and varsity basketball teams at several of the international schools. He also coordinated and accompanied students on various overnight field trips, cultural studies trips, and other educational or athletic travel opportunities for students at these schools.

Vahey was born in New York and was a United States citizen. According to his personal resume, Vahey graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, and he received a master’s degree in curriculum development from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. At the time of his death, he was married with two adult children. Vahey maintained two residences—one in London and another on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Vahey was a white male, 64 years old at the time of his death, approximately 6’0” tall, and weighed about 190 pounds.

The FBI will continue to work with the Department of State-Diplomatic Security Service and other national and international law enforcement partners on this ongoing investigation to bring closure to the alleged heinous crimes. By his own admission, Vahey used sleeping pills to drug his victims, but investigators want to learn more about his methods and what drugs he may have used. They are hopeful the public can assist them.

If you have information about the ongoing investigation regarding William James Vahey—or believe you may have been victimized by him—please complete our confidential questionnaire or submit a confidential e-mail to HOvictimassistance@ic.fbi.gov. You can also contact your local FBI office or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

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