Hawaii psychologist indicted on sex crimes accused of targeting most vulnerable children

A clinical psychologist on the Big Island is accused of sex crimes against a child, and a civil suit claims he targeted the most vulnerable kids
Published: Jul. 3, 2023 at 5:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A clinical psychologist on the Big Island is accused of sex crimes against a child, and a civil suit claims he targeted the most vulnerable kids through his Kona-based nonprofit.

Reuben Lelah has been indicted on four counts of sex assault and remains locked up at Hawaii Community Correctional Center. He pleaded not guilty to all charges in court of Friday.

A civil lawsuit filed on the behalf of the victim accuses Lelah of targeting the most vulnerable children.

The victim’s family sought help through a Kona-based non-profit called the Loving Service Foundation.

According to its website, Lelah is the foundation’s president and the nonprofit specializes in treating children and teens who are dying or suffering from chronic illness.

The non-profit sits on a 22-acre compound on Huehue Street in Kailua-Kona. It was on the rural property where Lelah is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a young patient. The boy was just 14 at the time.

According to court documents, the abuse started in June 2019 and continued for seven months — after the clinical psychologist convinced the boy’s parents to let the victim live with him while receiving treatment.

Lelah was indicted on Thursday, charged with a total of four counts of sex assault after allegedly engaging in multiple different sex acts with the boy.

“It’s disturbing on many, many fronts,” said Britt Young, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

She fears if the allegations are found to be true, there could be more victims.

“From what the data provides, it’s rare that someone who preys on children or adolescents would just have one victim in particular, especially if he or she is exposed to a wide population of children,” Young said.

In a three-and-a-half minute video posted on the non-profit’s website, Lelah described the nonprofit’s mission: “I believe the human soul is love. It is important for our children and teens to understand this, and also their power to choose and the resulting consequences.”

The foundation’s website also states the vast majority of Lelah’s patients are from “relatively poor rural areas” and “disadvantaged populations.”

Young says parents of children who have seen the doctor should immediately have a conversation with their child. “That conversation really needs to be age appropriate and understandable by the child,” Young said. “My recommendation: Don’t ask your child point blank, ‘Did this happen?’'

“Instead, ask about what kind of things he or she might have done in the context of being with this person. Leave it very open-ended and try to get information. And if you believe on any level that your child has been victimized, it is time to get the authorities involved.”

Lelah is being held in jail on $40,000 bail.

HNN reached out to Lelah’s public defender for comment but have not yet heard back.