Officials say William James Vahey, 64, of South Carolina, molested at least 90 children around the world before a maid stole his flash drive in Nicaragua and exposed him.
Bill Vahey was a beloved teacher who traveled around the world teaching the children of diplomats. He worked in nine countries over the span of four decades, teaching hundreds of students.
He took kids on trips to exotic destinations and let them have cookies and milk before bed. Those double-cream Oreos were laced with sleeping pills, the FBI says. Once the boys were unconscious, Vahey touched and photographed them.
Vahey, who attempted suicide once after the drive was stolen, was successful after his second attempt. He stabbed himself to death in Minnesota on March 21. Now authorities are left trying to identify the scores of children that appear on the drive.
There were decades of opportunities to expose Vahey, each one of them missed. He was arrested on child sexual abuse charges in 1969, when he was just 20, in Orange County, Calif., after he was accused of pinching the penises of eight boys, age 7 to 9, at a school where he taught swimming lessons.
He told authorities he began touching boys without their consent when he was 14 years old. A psychiatrist said he was not predisposed to committing sexual offenses against children and the court allowed him to work at a public school after his arrest.
He was given five years probation, but when he graduated from college in 1972, after just two years on probation, he was allowed to leave the county unsupervised.
"Nobody went after sex offenders,” said retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s detective Dan Scott, who said leniency was common.
Despite being required to register as a sex offender, Vahey never updated his information as he moved from place to place and authorities never pursued the infraction.
When his international teaching career began, he married Jean Vahey, a widely respected administrator in the close-knit international school system, and they had two children.
When he was required to provide his police record during the hiring process, Vahey was able to present a clean one from Indonesia because he had previously resided there for five years. When he was hired at the Westminster campus of London's Southbank International School, he was subjected to two criminal background checks in the UK, where he never lived before.
While working in Venezuela, two students under his supervision were rushed to a hospital when they fell unconscious in their hotel room. A toxicity test came back negative and Vahey was never investigated.
With the esteem of many parents, was renowned for taking children on “student experience trips.” Teachers and staff said these trips weren’t simply overnight, some were week-long outings with nearly 30 students.
FBI agents said Vahey “created a system that gave him the opportunity and the means to molest children.”
Now students are left to wonder if they were victims.
"He ate the cookies, too," said the father of a student in Caracas, Venezuala, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Everyone on those trips did."
"With the sheer volume, the sheer number of incidents in which this man molested, it surprises me that somehow this was not picked up by someone. I don’t know what went wrong," John Magagna, the founding director of the world's largest international school recruiting firm Search Associates, told The Associated Press.