MUSKEGON — A Muskegon man admitted in a Muskegon Chronicle interview Monday that he paddled a 15-year-old foreign exchange student from South Korea on his bare bottom, made him walk naked in front of him and watched the boy shower — but says it was all for the boy’s own good.
“He was very shy and he expressed a concern about walking around the locker room nude at the gym,” said Richard William Mink, who hosted the boy at his home from August to December 2010. “I had him practice. I had him walk back and forth nude in the bedroom. I was in there, but it was very dimly lit and I couldn’t really see him.”
Mink, 75, of 2520 Glenside, who said he has hosted foreign exchange students for nearly 20 years, has been charged with two felonies for allegedly abusing two teen boys, one from Germany and the student from South Korea.
Mink has been arraigned in Muskegon County’s 60th District Court before Judge Andrew Wierengo III on one count of child abusive commercial activity — producing child pornography — and one count of second-degree child abuse in connection with two separate cases involving the two unrelated international students.
Mink is accused of taking nude photos of the German student some time in 2008 and abusing the other student in a variety of ways, including fondling the South Korean boy’s genitals, claiming it was a “medical examination,” police said.
Mink denied the fondling accusation, but admits to other claims made by the boy in December.
“I paddled him, yes. I paddled him for being mean to my animals, for one reason. I paddled him once for not turning in his assignments at school,” Mink said.
However, he claims he never fondled the student.
“I did not do that. I think he said that because I made him have his hair cut. I mean, how do you defend yourself about a boy who says things about you that aren’t true?” Mink said. “I won’t be able to show my face when this goes in the paper.”
Mink is free on two $20,000 signature bonds — one for each case — issued by Wierengo. The judge set his preliminary examination for Thursday. Mink said he’s hired Muskegon attorney Ronald Pannucci.
Both exchange students were immediately removed from Mink’s home when the initial complaints were filed, said Muskegon Police Department Lt. Leah Fenwick.
The allegations surfaced in December after the South Korean student, who had been attending a local high school in Muskegon County, told a school counselor that he had been abused, sometimes sexually, at the hands of Mink.
A school official then reported the teen’s claims to authorities, Fenwick said.
“He said he was inappropriately touched,” Fenwick said.
The victim also said Mink forced him to sleep nude, shower with others staying at the house and “touched the teen on his genitals and claimed he was doing a medical examination,” Fenwick said.
Mink also allegedly struck the boy on his “bare bottom” and spanked him with a “flat stick,” Fenwick said.
Mink told The Chronicle that he had the boy shower with the shower curtain “partially open” while Mink was in the bathroom, but only so he could “show the boy” how to operate the shower.
The investigation into the recent claims led authorities to search Mink’s home, where they discovered nude photos of a 16-year-old Germany male exchange student, apparently taken by Mink, Fenwick said.
One photo showed the 16-year-old boy completely naked, during the day at a Muskegon-area beach, Fenwick said.
An investigation into whether any additional criminal activity occurred between Mink and other exchange students is ongoing, Fenwick said.
The South Korean student was connected with Mink through Ayusa Global Youth Exchange. The organization’s website indicates it is a nonprofit organization designated by the U.S. Department of State. It wasn’t clear how Mink came in contact with the German student.
Sherry Carpenter, executive director of Ayusa, a nationwide group with a field office in Ada, said the organization was devastated to hear of the alleged abuse.
“The moment Ayusa became aware of the unfortunate incident involving one of our foreign exchange students, we immediately removed the student from the host family. We then quickly followed all Ayusa and U.S. Department of State policies and procedures, including reporting and contacting the authorities,” Carpenter said in a statement to The Chronicle.
Carpenter said last year was the first time Mink ever hosted an exchange student with Ayusa.