A Hasidic dad who found social media acclaim for adopting nine boys has been charged with sexually abusing most of them while out on bond in an earlier child se.x case.
Single dad Hayim Nissim Cohen, 38, regularly blogged about his “unique family” in Houston.
However, local prosecutor Janna Oswald told a recent court hearing that “behind all that is excessive abuse.
Cohen — who claimed to be a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn despite being born Jeffrey Lujan Vejil in Texas — was busted last month after one of his sons went on a podcast to anonymously report being raped and abused.
The terrified 17-year-old boy told BlindSkinnedBeauty that he’d been sexually assaulted since he was 11 — weeks after his adoption — and claimed many of his brothers were also abused.
Using a burner phone, the teen said he was scared to speak up, claiming Child Protective Services had been called out at least eight times — but never saved them.
However, his damning interview sparked a police investigation and a slew of charges against the single dad, who’d been the subject of numerous glowing newspaper and magazine profiles.
Five of the other kids also came forward.
Cohen is now facing 12 charges.
The six — ages 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 and 17 — have since been taken into care, while the three others appeared to support their dad in court.
Prosecutors say he kept the kids locked in a room for most of the day, only letting them out at 4 p.m. — when he would sometimes force them to perform sex acts, the Chronicle said.
One of the alleged victims, now 16, said Cohen would pepper-spray him if he refused to give in, Oswald told the court. He also abused the boys at a cabin he had in Odessa, according to charging documents.
Disturbingly, it happened despite Cohen still facing a criminal charge for “indecency with a child” with a foreign exchange student from Spain in 2019, the Chronicle noted.
His bond conditions prevented him from going within 1,000 feet of places where children may be, such as a school, but not from raising his adopted kids, the paper said.
“There were so many red flags,” Sherry Chandler, an attorney representing the exchange student in a civil lawsuit, told ABC13.
“We all suspected [Cohen] is a pedophile. You don’t just start one day. We all suspected the other kids were getting abused.”
Child Protective Services declined to comment to the Chronicle on how many reports were received about Cohen, or why he was allowed to keep raising the kids alone.
However, Oswald, the prosecutor, confirmed in court that several investigations had been launched into complaints by the kids, none of which led to charges until the podcast.
“There was suspicion and things we were following up on but nothing significant that we could bring charges on,” Oswald told Judge Danilo Lacayo when asked why more was not done.
Cohen’s whole identity appeared to be fake, including his claim in interviews to be a Hasidic Jew hailing from Williamsburg.
Records show he was actually born Jeffrey Lujan Vejil in Odessa, changing his name several times from 2009 when he said he was converting to Judaism.
In interviews, he said his life’s mission was “to ensure that Jewish foster children are placed in Jewish homes.
“Altruistic as non-Jewish foster parents may be, their homes and practices are alien to Orthodox kids,” he once told the Jewish Press.
“I became a go-to adoption destination for Orthodox boys in the foster care system … a minority within a minority within a minority.”
His social media also claimed that he was terminally ill, and Cohen arrived at his last court hearing in a wheelchair and with an oxygen mask.
However, the teen who alleged abuse on the podcast also told investigators that “everything [Cohen] does is fake,” according to charging documents obtained by ABC 13.
The teen accused Cohen of only using a wheelchair “when people come over or when he is in public” and not needing the six oxygen tanks he keeps as props.
Cohen’s attorney, Charles Johnson, told KHOU 11 that he was “going to do everything that we can to show that he did not do this.”
“We are fortunate to have a system where he has the opportunity to be innocent until proven guilty,” he stressed.