Ex-orphan tells court about abuse / Long Island, NY native accused
By Robert E. Kessler
Newsday, September 24, 1997
Copyright 1997 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)
A former resident of an orphanage in Guatemala run by John Wetterer, the one-time Massapequa resident who allegedly molested young boys, testified in U.S. District Court in Uniondale yesterday that Wetterer repeatedly sodomized him when he was a third-grader at the institution.
But lawyers for the Friends of Mi Casa, a group associated with the orphanage seeking to reclaim $109,000 the government seized after Wetterer was indicted, said the testimony of Angel Ortiz was a fabrication. Wetterer was indicted in 1992 on charges he had raised money under false pretenses in the United States.
Stanley Shapiro, a lawyer for the Friends of Mi Casa, said Ortiz, now 23, had become a homeless man living on the streets of Guatemala City who made up the accusations of sodomy because it got him a free plane ride to New York and $30 a day in living expenses from the federal government.
"That's a fortune in Guatemala," Shapiro said.
Wetterer's adopted son David, who was in the courthouse yesterday and who works on Long Island, also said Ortiz' charges were false. He said he slept in a room next to his adopted father's at the time covered by Ortiz' allegations, and that he would have known if young boys had been in his father's bedroom.
The federal government has been trying unsuccessfully to extradite Wetterer from Guatemala. It said the $109,000 seized at the time of the indictment was actually Wetterer's, and that the Friends of Mi Casa is a front for Wetterer.
When Wetterer was indicted on the mail-fraud charges, federal Postal Inspector John McDermott said in a deposition that Wetterer regularly and systematically abuses minor boys who reside at Mi Casa. Since the abuse allegedly occurred in Guatemala, Wetterer was indicted in the United States only on the mail-fraud charges.
Shapiro and co-counsel June German said the money belongs to Friends of Mi Casa and that the group runs the orphanage in Guatemala.
Shapiro conceded the truth of another part of Ortiz' testimony: that Wetterer disciplined the boys who misbehaved at the orphanage by hitting their bare bottoms with a paddle.
Ortiz described under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Susan Riley and Arthur Hui that at one point, Wetterer, who had just returned from a trip to the United States, had 30 to 50 young boys who had been accused by Mi Casa staff of stealing food and other wrongdoings while he was away line up naked in a hallway. Ortiz said Wetterer went down the line of boys paddling them on their bottoms. [Emphasis added.]
In earlier testimony, Ortiz said through an interpreter that while he didn't know his age at the time, when he was in the third grade at the institution, Wetterer called him to his bedroom, had him shower and then sodomized him. Ortiz said when he complained that it hurt, Wetterer told him in English, "I'm sorry." Ortiz said Wetterer sodomized him seven more times. [Emphasis added.]
The hearing on whether to give the $109,000 to the Friends of Mi Casa has been going on intermittently before federal District Court Judge Arthur Spatt for the past year.
Asked by prosecutors at the end of his testimony if he still loved Wetterer, whom he called Tio Juan (Uncle John), Ortiz said Wetterer had taken him in as an orphan and given him food, shelter and an education.
"Yes, I still love him because, well, he helped me. I will never deny it," Ortiz said.