FBI agents from Houston are spearheading an international probe to determine how many students at elite private schools in nine countries fell victim to a teacher who authorities contend was a serial predator for more than four decades.
The local agents went public with their investigation Tuesday, saying they may never know how many victims William James Vahey exploited during a global career that began in 1972 after he stopped registering for a molestation conviction in California.
A thumb drive holds photos that show he had at least 90 victims since 2008 alone, according to the Houston FBI agents who are leading the ongoing global probe to find his victims as well as determine the extent of his crime.
Vahey, 64, committed suicide in a Minnesota hotel room last month before he could be arrested and perhaps provide some answers.
"This is one of the most prolific and heinous suspected sexual predator cases we have ever seen," said Shauna Dunlap, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Houston Division.
"It appears he was able to perfect his craft in such a way these children were unable to know what happened to them and unable to report it," she said. "He has been teaching overseas the entire time. We strongly believe there are more victims."
Houston FBI agents started investigating in March as they have an expertise in child predators and are part of an international team that travels abroad to help in cases in which Americans are suspected of breaking U.S. federal laws.
Vahey has residences in London and Hilton Head, S.C. He has taught in Iran, Lebanon, Spain, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Venezuela and London. He was most recently in Nicaragua, where in 2013 he was contracted as a ninth-grade history teacher at the American Nicaraguan School.
The schools are often preferred by the families of American diplomats, military personnel and business executives, especially from energy companies, stationed abroad.
The school in London did not respond to comment, but Vahey's wife, Jean, is the executive director of the European Council on International Schools and was previously the superintendent of Esceula Campo Alegre, in Caracas, Venezuela, where William Vahey worked from 2002 to 2009.
The Caracas-based school's current superintendent, Gregory Hedger, confirmed that Jean Vahey no longer worked there and had moved on to the London-based position.
He said word of William Vahey's alleged actions against teenage students came as a shock to the school.
"We have been following up and working very closely with the FBI for a couple of weeks now," Hedger said.
He declined to comment on whether there was any suspicion that William Vahey could have been enabled by his wife's position in the administration.
Mike Cole of Cypress remembers Vahey as a teacher at the Tehran American School where he was a student in the early 1970s.
"I remember him being a seventh- or eighth-grade history teacher in Tehran," said Cole, now 57. "I find it strange that he was only there for a year. Makes me wonder if the administration knew something. I feel so sorry for any of the victims. We had a very large and caring American community."
It was in Nicaragua last year that his scheme was finally uncovered by a housekeeper who was fired by the school for stealing from Vahey, according to the FBI.
Months later she went back to school administrators with the thumb drive that she had taken from him that was filled with images of Vahey and nude teenage boys who appear to be unconscious or sleeping.
When confronted by a school administrator, Vahey allegedly admitted to his crimes and was fired, according to an affidavit filed at the federal courthouse in Houston.
"I was molested as a boy, that is why I do this. I have been doing this my whole life," Vahey said, according to the affidavit. Vahey insisted that he "never hurt" any of the boys and that they didn't even know what happened to them because they were asleep.
As the FBI posted an appeal to the public to come forth with information about Vahey's crimes, word spread among some social media sites.
Vahey taught history, geography, social studies and also coached boys junior varsity basketball teams and regularly accompanied students on overnight field trips, according to the FBI.
Stephen Morris, special agent in charge of the FBI's Houston Division, said even though Vahey is dead, the case is far from over.
"With him being deceased, we aren't just going to let the case be resolved like that," he said.
The FBI has made finding his victims a top priority, to see if they are in need of any help.
"History has shown that people who have been traumatized and victimized carry that throughout their lives, not feeling they have the resources to redress it," he said.
Morris said an additional factor is learning all that is possible about what Vahey did to stop it from happening again.
"We look at each one of these cases and identify ... how did they do it, how did they get away with it, in hopes of identifying any gaps that would allow someone to slip through the cracks and be undetected," he said.
"Every time we work one of these cases we are hoping to learn a little more about these individuals to identify someone before they do it or become prolific at it."
Lawrence Thompson Jr., director of the Houston-based Children's Assessment Center, which helps victims of sexual abuse and their families, said victims might not have memories of what happened, but still need assistance.
"There may be people suffering, and they don't even know why they are suffering," he said.
As for child predators, he has seen cases in which they have had hundreds of victims over the course of many years. "What we know about pedophiles is we have no cure for pedophilia," he said. ..Source.. by Dane Schiller
Admitted molester from SC ended life with knife thrust
On the day he ended his life with a knife thrust to the chest, serial child molestation suspect William James Vahey checked into two hotel rooms in a small Minnesota town.
Vahey, a part-time Hilton Head Island resident, got the first room at the GrandStay Hotel in Luverne on March 21.
He did not stay the night, a hotel receptionist who asked not to be identified said Thursday.
Hotel staff knocked on his room door after his brother called looking for him, the receptionist said.
Vahey wasn't there.
The 64-year-old, who told the FBI he drugged and molested at least 90 boys in the course of his teaching career, was only about 500 feet away at the Quality Inn.
There, police found him dead of the knife wound, according to the Star Herald newspaper of Luverne.
"He must have checked in here, kept his room as a coverup, checked into the other hotel and committed suicide," the receptionist said.
The FBI, which is conducting an investigation, has no explanation as to why Vahey was in Luverne when he committed suicide, but acknowledges the possibility he had family in the town of 4,745.
As the FBI continues its international search for Vahey's victims, more details about the serial molester are emerging on Hilton Head and across the world.
CALL FOR HELP HEEDED
Over the past 40 years, Vahey taught at 10 American International schools in nine countries, including Nicaragua, Great Britain, Venezuela, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Iran, Spain and Lebanon.
He was fired from the American Nicaraguan School in Managua on March 12, where he taught ninth-grade history, after a USB flash drive containing pornographic images of boys was turned in to the FBI, according to an FBI news release.
Through those images, the FBI has identified at least 90 victims.
On Tuesday, the bureau asked for the public's help in finding more of them.
Spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap of the FBI's Houston Division said Thursday there has been a large response to that call for help, but would not comment on the number of victims who have come forward or their location.
"We're getting responses and we're getting new information, but I'm not going to comment about any specifics," Dunlap said. "We released information in an attempt to reach out to victims. Typically we're not going to release any information or details of an ongoing investigation, so I'm not going to be releasing a daily count of how many victims have come forward."
Dunlap also declined to comment on whether the FBI has evidence Vahey might have had a sexually transmitted disease he could have passed on to his young victims.
There were other developments Thursday.
The Southbank International School in London, where Vahey taught history between 2009 and 2013, said images of between 50 and 60 students were found on his computer drive at the school, according to The Associated Press. Some of the pictures depicted students being molested.
Dunlap would not confirm whether those images were being reviewed by the FBI, or if the victims in those pictures were included in or are in addition to the original 90 the bureau reported.
Vahey founded the Travel Club at Southbank International, in which students and teachers traveled to places such as Jordan, Panama and Nepal, according to Focus, a London-based magazine.
In Indonesia, the Jakarta International School, where Vahey taught from 1992 to 2002, released a statement Wednesday saying the school recently learned of the investigation by Escuela Campo Alegre American international school in Caracas, Venezuela, where Vahey taught from 2002 to 2009.
The headmaster of the Jakarta International School said it's cooperating with the investigation. Headmaster Timothy Carr said school officials were "devastated" by the allegations. The school will make sure that such a "horrendous event" never recurs, he said.
The school also sent out an email encouraging the school community to complete a confidential FBI questionnaire or contact the FBI if they know anyone affected by Vahey's actions.
AN UNREGISTERED OFFENDER
Vahey maintained two residences -- one in London and another on Hilton Head.
British police searched the London property on Tuesday in connection with the case, according to The Associated Press.
Neither Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner nor Dunlap would comment Thursday on whether Vahey's Hilton Head residence at 8 Green Wing Teal Road in Sea Pines has been searched.
According to the Minnesota newspaper's Wednesday article, law enforcement there is not involved in the investigation.
Tanner would not comment Thursday on whether his agency is assisting the FBI.
"I've known about this case for probably a couple months solely because he had a home in Beaufort County," Tanner said. "I'm not going to talk about the case. It's not my place to be talking about their investigation."
Vahey acquired the Sea Pines home in 2008, according to Beaufort County tax rolls.
His Sea Pines neighbors -- many of whom also are part-time residents -- said they either didn't know Vahey and his wife, Jean, or did not remember them.
Vahey has owned a number of homes on Hilton Head since 1980, according to county deed records.
Hilton Head lawyer Herbert Novit had power of attorney to close on the sale of one of them, at 1616 Port Villas, in 1986.
"I saw him in the paper this morning, but I don't recall ever hearing the name before," Novit said Thursday.
The lawyer said the power of attorney probably indicates Vahey was not on Hilton Head to close on the home.
"When someone's here, of course, they sign for themselves," Novit said. "Quite often people buy property on the island and they cannot be here for the closing, so they sign limited powers of attorney."
Other details of Vahey's personal life remain largely a mystery.
He was married at the time of his death and had two adult sons. Both of them graduated from Jakarta International School -- one in 2000 and the other in 2001, according to Classmates.com.
His wife, Jean Vahey, is executive director of the European Council of International Schools based in London and is currently on leave, according to the council's website. She was the superintendent at Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas from 2002 to 2009, during which time William Vahey worked there as a middle school history teacher.
A November 2009 bulletin of the American International Church in London welcomed "Bill and Jean Vahey" as new congregants, according to the church's online bulletin.
In 1969, Vahey was arrested in California on six counts of child molestation, and pleaded guilty to one.
He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years of probation. He was also required to register with the state of California's sex offender registry every year for the rest of his life.
Vahey, however, apparently never renewed his California sex offender registration.
He is not listed in the South Carolina, California or national sex offender registry. ..Source.. by LAURA OBERLE