Sex offender who ran Maui camp re-emerges
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
By Christie Wilson
A convicted sex offender who ran a Maui summer camp until it was closed in 2004 amid accusations of improper behavior has resurfaced in Nantucket, Mass., where he apparently tried to start up another program aimed at teenagers.
Raymond L. Thomas, 51, is in jail in that state after failing to register as a convicted sex offender. Police in Nantucket said Thomas was unemployed and living in a van when he was arrested May 2.
Using the name Llew Thomas, one of several aliases he has employed over the years, Thomas in 2005 set up a Web site for the Nantucket International Academy, offering cultural exchange, homestays and English language instruction for foreign students ages 15 to 18. The academy Web site said the programs are based in Nantucket and Orlando, Fla., although an online search of state government and education association records shows no evidence of the academy's existence.
Lt. Jerry Adams of the Nantucket Police Department said it is not known if the academy was ever operating or if Thomas collected any fees from prospective students. He said Thomas was looking for work in Nantucket when police received an anonymous tip that he had not registered with local authorities. He had been in the small island community a little longer than a week before his arrest, Adams said.
BROKE STATE LAW
Thomas admitted to police that he had three sex-offense convictions in California, Adams said, and had not registered in Massachusetts within two days of relocating there, as required by state law.
Thomas was sentenced in 1991 to six years and eight months in prison for lewd and lascivious acts on a girl who was 6, and for two counts involving sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl and using her for the purpose of making sexual photos or videos.
Thomas also told police that he worked in Nantucket for about four or five months last year, Adams said.
Nantucket has about 10,000 to 12,000 full-time residents, with its population swelling to about 60,000 during the summer season.
After his arrest, police obtained warrants to search Thomas' van and a laptop computer he had left at a local business. Thomas initially denied owning the computer but later acknowledged it was his, Adams said. A search of the van did not turn up any evidence, he said, but police are still examining files contained in the computer. Adams would not describe the nature of the material or if charges were expected in connection with the files.
TROUBLE IN HAWAI'I
Thomas is being held in jail, with bail set at $10,000. He will make an appearance Monday in court, and if convicted he could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison.
Thomas operated Aloha Adventure Camps while living on Maui. Although he was not suspected of any crimes in connection with those camps, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs obtained a court judgment against him in April 2005 for $46,379 in camp fee refunds to 21 families and a $250,000 penalty. More than 100 other families that paid for the camp with credit cards were able to receive refunds totaling $150,000 with help from the state Office of Consumer Protection.
Unless Thomas has financial assets, which officials consider unlikely, there is not much that can be done to recoup the payments ordered in the civil case, said DCCA spokeswoman Christine Hirasa. The judgment is good for 10 years, she said.
Denver parent Diana Lee Crew got a refund from her credit-card company for seven weeks of camp fees for her two children, but said the experience has lingered. "It's always on the back of my mind. I sent my daughter to ski camp and I asked 5,000 questions more than I ever would have," she said.
"It does make me feel a little better that his past has caught up with him."
Thomas was registered as a sex offender in Hawai'i, but was using the name Llew Lazarus in connection with Aloha Adventure Camps, which was accredited by the American Camping Association. He operated the program for several summers at the Girl Scout Council of Hawai'i's Camp Pi'iholo in Upcountry Maui, charging $1,150 per week.
Because the camp billed itself as providing surfing and photography programs, it was considered a "specialty camp" and was exempt from state licensing regulations for childcare facilities that require employees to undergo criminal background checks.
The collapse of Aloha Adventure Camps was triggered by allegations Thomas made sexually inappropriate remarks to a camper and was operating in a disorganized and unsafe manner. Camp staff and parents complained to police, and Thomas ordered some of the campers home, throwing the operation into further disarray. When the Girl Scout Council investigated the complaints, it was discovered that Thomas had falsified insurance documents, and the camp was closed July 7, 2004.
The sudden closing of the camp left several dozen campers stranded. Those who could not immediately return home were put in temporary state custody.
Reach Christie Wilson at email@example.com.