CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A former minister was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison Friday for engaging in illicit sexual conduct while on mission trips in Haiti. The sentence follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Larry Michael Bollinger, 68, of Gastonia, must also serve a lifetime under court supervision following his prison term and register as a sex offender. Bollinger pleaded guilty in January 2013 to two counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.
According to court documents and the sentencing hearing, Bollinger was a former minister who performed missionary work in Haiti. Court records show that Bollinger travelled regularly to Haiti because of his involvement with the Lazarus Project, a charity that supports two charitable organizations in the country, the Hope House and The Village of Hope School. According to court records and court proceedings, from in or about August 2009 to October 2009, Bollinger sexually molested four Haitian females between the ages of 11 and 16. Court records indicate that one of the victims said Bollinger offered to pay her food and money in exchange for sexual acts.
"Bollinger is a sexual predator who used his missionary work as a cover to hide the heinous sexual abuse he perpetrated on the innocent children of an impoverished country. Prosecutors and law enforcement worked tirelessly to bring this monster to justice, and even though today’s sentence cannot undo the harm Bollinger inflicted upon his young victims, it is a clear message that our justice system will protect children beyond our borders," said U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins from the Western District of North Carolina.
"The defendant betrayed the trust placed in him by his congregation, his charity and, most importantly, by the children he was supposedly helping in Haiti," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta, who oversees Georgia and the Carolinas. "For the damage he has caused in these young lives, the defendant has earned every minute of this sentence. HSI special agents will continue to stand strong against child predators who prey upon the innocent, no matter where those children might be found."
Bollinger has been in federal custody since he was charged in May 2012. He will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.