June 7 (UPI) – Lee Kaplan, a self-proclaimed prophet of God who molested and then married several young girls in the same family, was found guilty of 17 counts of child sex abuse by a Pennsylvania jury.
The Bucks County jury deliberated for nine hours before finding Kaplan guilty on every count he faced, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. At the time of his arrest in 2016, Kaplan was found to be living with nine sisters, their mother and two more children he fathered with the oldest sister, who is now 19-years-old. Kaplan considered six of the sisters, five of whom are underage, to be his wives.
Kaplan, 52, reportedly told police that the girls’ parents, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, had “gifted” their eldest daughter to him when she was just 14-years-old. And having convinced the formerly Amish Stoltzfus couple that he was their prophet, Kaplan told Stoltzfus to have all the daughters and even his wife move in with him.
“Kaplan had constructed his own sick family unit in which he was the [girls’] father, prophet and God,” Rick Ross, founder and director of the Cult Education Institute, told PEOPLE. “And these girls were his followers.”
The sordid tale began when Kaplan met Daniel Stoltzfus at a farm equipment sale in Erie, Pa., back in February, 2003. Stoltzfus was vulnerable at the time because he had recently lost his 14-month-old son in a freak accident and denounced his Amish faith. Kaplan reportedly “dazzled” Stoltzfus with his claims of being a prophet and instilled a grip that would last for years.
Once Kaplan convinced the Stoltzfus couple to have all their daughters move in with him, the bearded guru-like figure kept the young girls in a simple, mostly unkempt home with covered windows in Feasterville, Pa., located about 20 miles north of Philadelphia.
Neighbors figured something to be amiss, due to the occasional sighting of the cadre of young girls in identical, homemade blue dresses, despite Kaplan’s claims to be childless. A welfare check by authorities in 2016 led to Kaplan’s arrest.
Kaplan will face sentencing for the 17 counts of child sex abuse later this year.
“He was brought to justice today, and I’m very happy,” said Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler, who prosecuted the case against Kaplan.
Kaplan, meanwhile, maintains his innocence.
“He’s said from the very beginning he didn’t do these things,” said his attorney, Ryan Hyde, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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