Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

April –
October 2000

M – W

  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee



    MIDDLETON — Parents here are shell-shocked after prosecutors revealed that a church worker, already accused of sexually molesting 3 boys, may have harmed hundreds of other children.

    “You trust your children in the hands of others,” said one mother. “You yourself wouldn’t harm a child, yet you never know what can happen to your own.”

    The accused man — Christopher Reardon, 28 — served as a Catholic youth worker, summer camp counselor and Boy Scout volunteer in the town.

    The charges against Reardon involving the first three boys include rape and assault. But investigators said they found a computer list in Reardon’s bedroom that contained the names of as many as 250 boys between the ages of 5 and 14 and graphic descriptions of their bodies.

    At Reardon’s arraignment, the prosecutor told the court that a tape found at Reardon’s house showed “the defendant, along with another young boy, approximately 11 years of age, in acts of mutual masturbation.” And a hidden camera was found in the church rectory where Reardon was a youth coordinator.

    Adding to the anguish is that prosecutors maintain the law prohibits them from releasing the children’s names found in the suspect’s bedroom. That has left parents trying to determine whether their children were victimized. Experts in childhood trauma said parents should watch their children for signs of difficulty sleeping, nightmares or eating disorders.
    CNN 6/22/2000

    BOSTON — Infamous former priest James Porter, who was convicted of sexually assaulting more than two dozen children, lost his second bid for parole. Porter, 65, has served 7 years of an 18 to 20 year sentence after pleading guilty to 41 counts of raping and molesting 28 children.
    AP 4/10/2000



    FREEHOLD — A street preacher who helped “society’s rejects” has been sentenced to six years in state prison for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in his care.

    Superior Court Judge Ira E. Kreizman acknowledged that Michael R. McCarthy, 56, had done some good during his years as a minister. But he told McCarthy he had done “a terrible thing” as the girl’s legal guardian.

    “There are some lives you have saved,” he said. “But there is at least one life that has been ruined by what you have done.”

    The victim, now 20, told Kreizman that she didn’t know what to do when the assaults started. She no longer trusts men, she said.

    An evaluation of McCarthy concluded that he was not a repetitive and compulsive sex offender but that he was “opportunistic, hedonistic and exploitive,” Kreizman said. “She was the clay, he was the potter,” the judge said. “He was able to mold her in the impression he wanted. She was incapable of resisting.”

    McCarthy first addressed the judge, then turned to the victim and apologized. “I am terribly sorry for what happened,” he said. “It was a horrible event in my life, and I apologize to the victim. I apologize for any hurt or harm I have done. I realize the gravity of what I have done.”

    McCarthy told Kreizman he was concerned about what would happen to the people he shelters at his Set Free Ministries in Long Branch if he goes to jail. His wife works full time as a flight attendant and is the sole support of the family, he said.

    “My concern is not for myself,” he said. “I understand I am responsible and have to pay for what I have done.”

    Shortly after his arrest in 1996, his attorney said McCarthy denied the allegations. McCarthy said the girl — entrusted to his care at age 14 by her father because of family conflicts — invented the charges because his wife was going to punish her for refusing to do household chores.

    He pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree sexual assault in Dec. In exchange for the plea — which the victim agreed with — 7 other counts, including one of witness tampering, were dismissed.

    As McCarthy was led away in handcuffs, some of his supporters who packed one side of the courtroom began to cry. Others were angry.

    “You happy now?” one man said angrily to a woman sitting next to the victim. “Loser,” she replied. A court attendant called for order as the victim and her supporters were led out of the courtroom.
    Ashbury Park Press, 6/24/2000



    LAS CRUCES — The Diocese of Las Cruces has issued an explanation clearing a former priest of involvement in the theft of church collections uncovered in 1998.

    The statement clearing Fr. Louis Amezaga was part of the settlement of a lawsuit the former priest filed last year against the diocese. Other terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Amezaga, a former associate pastor at Immaculate Heart Cathedral, sued the diocese in 1999, accusing it of intentionally inflicting emotional distress and creating conditions that forced him to resign.

    His investigation in the spring of 1998 led to the discovery that for several years, church donations that should have been deposited in a bank account had been stolen. Church officials estimated the losses at $127,000. Amezaga said that after uncovering evidence that the losses were continuing in the spring of 1998, he was ordered into an insubordination hearing by the church rector, Fr. Thomas Beggane.

    Amezaga was later reassigned to another church in the diocese.

    That action and others by Bp. Ricardo Ramirez gave the public the impression that Amezaga was responsible for the thefts and led to the priest’s isolation from the church community, Amezaga’s suit charged.

    Amezaga, ordained as a priest in 1996, took a leave of absence from clerical duties.
    The unsigned, two-paragraph statement the diocese issued said Amezaga was “never involved, nor suspected of any involvement, in thefts of monies from the church, and he acted in good faith at all times.”

    Beggane, early in a police investigation of the thefts, took a leave of absence from the cathedral and said he had a gambling problem. Neither the local prosecutor nor church officials said Beggane was involved in the thefts, and no one was ever charged with the thefts.

    Amezaga’s mother, Delfina Amezaga, said the settlement could not make up for her family’s pain the past two years. She said she no longer attends Masses at the church and instead prays and worships at home.
    Albuquerque Journal 8/12/2000

    ALBUQUERQUE — A lawsuit brought against Fr. Paul Baca and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe alleging sexual misconduct by the longtime priest has been settled for an undisclosed amount of money.

    Bruce Pasternack, who represents a 41-year-old Albuquerque woman who sued Baca and the church in Jan., said the financial terms of the settlement are confidential. Stella Tafoya alleged in her suit that Baca first sexually molested her when she was 15, then engaged in a sexual relationship with her for two years beginning in 1989, while he was counseling her.

    Tafoya also said in her suit that she secretly videotaped Baca during a visit to her home in Dec., in which she claims he admitted “repetitive sexual contact” with her in the past.

    Pasternack said the settlement also covered claims by a second woman, who never filed suit but told a television station that she had sexual relations with Baca, while he counseled her until early this year.

    Attorneys for the archdiocese declined to comment on the settlement, and Baca has always denied the allegations. But one of Baca’s attorneys confirmed that a settlement had been reached, and without confirming whether a second woman was included, said it was “a comprehensive settlement.”

    Pasternack said he initially wouldn’t take Tafoya’s case because he had been referring church sex-abuse cases to other lawyers. But when he learned she tried to shoot herself over the alleged involvement with Baca, “I couldn’t turn her away,” he said. He praised the archdiocese for “taking responsibility early on” by settling the case.

    “It was a laudable way of handling it,” Pasternack said. “It is a much healthier corporate culture that I’m seeing.”

    Baca’s lawyer, Yolanda Gallegos, said a settlement had been negotiated by the archdiocese on behalf of both Baca and the church. But, she said, “it is absolutely incorrect” to suggest that the settlement was an admission of wrongdoing on Baca’s part.

    “The hard and harsh reality is that defending any claim is very expensive,” regardless of the truth or falsehood of the allegations,” Gallegos said.

    Baca, 75, “is going to continue the Catholic ministry that he started over 50 years ago,” and is teaching Bible classes, ministering to the sick and doing other forms of ministry, she said.
    Baca has been on a form of administrative leave from his parish and there has been “no permanent restriction” on Baca’s status as a priest, Gallegos said.

    “He’ll always be a priest,” she added.
    Journal 6/8/2000



    BROOKLYN — Fr. Frank Capellupo, 52, the trusted pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bushwick, was arrested after police received complaints that he had taken advantage of a 14-year-old boy. The teen had moved into the rectory in April 1999 to escape family problems.

    Capellupo was arraigned and charged with sodomy, sexual abuse, harassment and endangering the welfare of a child. Released on his own recognizance, he was ordered to appear June 29 for a hearing.

    A spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens said Capellupo strongly denied the charges. “But the diocese is taking the charges seriously, to see if they are true,” he said. “The diocese has placed him on an administrative leave, which means that he will not be functioning in the parish for the time being, and that he will undergo a psychological evaluation. We are concerned about the well-being of he boy and his family, as well as Fr. Capellupo.”

    The assistant District Attorney told the court the priest sexually abused the boy the night of June 2 and early the next morning. Police arrested him after the boy’s mother filed a complaint. Capellupo, ordained 25 years ago, grew up in Queens and served as parish priest at fourteen parishes.

    Capellupo, who speaks Spanish, founded and ran Independence House, a group home for troubled teens, in Bushwick in 1983. A parishioner said the priest was well-liked and had raised no suspicions within the neighborhood. “We did not think that he would ever do anything like that,” he said, “because he was very close to children.”
    Daily News 6/14/2000

    ELLMORE — A retired priest who had served in several parishes around Long Island has been charged with sodomy involving a 15-year-old boy, the Nassau County police said. Fr. Andrew Millar, 69, was arrested on May 7.

    Millar, who retired about a year ago and was living at a church rectory at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Manorville, sodomized the boy in the bathroom of a beach pavilion that afternoon, the police said.

    The boy, described by the police as “learning disabled,” was accompanied to the bathroom by his father, who waited outside. At some point, the police spokesman said, the victim’s father went in to check on his son.

    “When he got inside, he found his son and the suspect in a stall. The suspect fled the bathroom and the victim’s father chased him, and along with a witness they were able to detain him for the police.”

    Asked to elaborate, he said: “This is not a forceful situation. This is a situation where a learning disabled child was taken advantage of.” By “learning disabled,” the lieutenant said he meant that the boy’s father “describes him as learning disabled; he is in development several years beneath his actual age.”

    Millar, who was not dressed as a priest when arrested, was charged with one count of third-degree sodomy. He was released on $7,500 cash bail and ordered to return to court June 15. He had no prior criminal record, the spokesman said. The vice chancellor for the Diocese of Rockville Center, said Millar, who had worked at various locations around Long Island since 1964, was undergoing psychological and medical evaluation at a diocesan center.
    ? 5/16/2000



    GAFFNEY — A 22-year-old church youth minister has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for molesting a teen-ager in 1998.

    A jury found Chad Severance, of Bessemer City, guilty of fondling one teen-age boy. Severance is expected to be tried in two similar cases later.

    All three boys were members of the New Harvest Church of God, which hired Severance as minister of music in May 1998. The boys said Severance would make excuses to spend the night with them either at their homes or at his.

    Each described waking during the night to find Severance fondling them.

    Severance, who serves as a minister of music at a North Carolina church, denied the charges. During testimony, he said he never slept with any of the boys when they visited his home. He said he was invited to stay at the home of one of the boys by the teen’s mother.
    ? 7/23/2000



    CINCINNATI — A lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati involving a former priest convicted of sexually abusing children will not go to trial.

    The archdiocese agreed to settle the lawsuit filed by a 26-year-old Cincinnati man who claimed that he was molested by George Cooley in the early 1980s. In a deposition, Cooley admitted having sexual contact with other boys but denied having such contact with the man who filed the lawsuit.

    The lawsuit filed on July 15, 1999, claimed that church officials knew or should have known that the priest had problems years before he was charged with a crime. The Cincinnati man said he repressed memories of the abuse for more than a decade but regained his memory shortly after Cooley pleaded guilty in 1991 to molesting 4 other boys. The man claimed he repressed memories of the abuse for more than a decade. His lawsuit was among 10 filed against the archdiocese. Like the others, it was settled out of court.

    But the archdiocese could not avoid new allegations that church officials knew the priest was a problem long before he was charged with a crime. Court documents suggest several officials — including Abp. Daniel Pilarczyk — were warned as early as 1971 that George Cooley had “psychological problems.”

    The first warning, court records show, came when Cooley was accused of fondling a fellow adult student while studying to become a priest.

    The incident so concerned Pilarczyk, then rector of the diocesan seminary, that he asked Cooley to leave the school. A year later, however, the archbishop wrote a letter recommending Cooley to another seminary.

    Cooley was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading guilty to the molestation charges in 1991. He was imprisoned again in 1994 for a parole violation: leaving the county to stalk one of his former child victims in Covington. He served 15 months for that violation. He was arrested again in 1996, this time for soliciting oral sex and a massage for $20 from a 19-year-old police decoy acting as a male prostitute.
    Enquirer 7/12/2000, 7/11



    TULSA — A former Sunday school teacher who was sentenced to more than two life terms in his state case for multiple sex crimes against children has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

    John Perry Sanger, 54, of Bristow, was indicted on one count each of use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct to produce visual depiction, interstate transportation of child pornography and possession of child pornography in the July through Sept. 1999 incidents. The fourth count would require the forfeiture of his real estate in Bristow and a considerable amount of computer and electronic equipment if he is convicted of the possession count.

    Sanger pleaded guilty in state court March 29 to 3 counts of rape by instrumentation and 2 counts each of lewd molestation, indecent exposure and lewd acts against a child under the age of 16. A judge ordered him to serve two consecutive life sentences, plus 20 years, as punishment.

    Bristow police have contended that Sanger’s case might include up to 20 victims, although the charges stemmed from only two, a 9-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister, who attended church with Sanger.

    The boy testified at the state hearing that he had on several occasions accepted invitations to go to Sanger’s home to play computer games. On one of these occasions, the boy said, he was asked to take pictures of a nude Sanger on a bed with five “grown-up” women.
    The girl testified at the preliminary hearing that Sanger once asked her and another girl to undress during a game of “strip” poker at his home. Other juveniles were in the house when the victim lost a card game and Sanger performed a sexual act with her, according to a court affidavit.
    Federal charges were alluded to in Nov. when officials revealed that the FBI was also investigating the case.

    An FBI agent said then that prosecutors would not take the case before a grand jury until federal officials had investigated further.
    World 6/10/2000



    PORTLAND - Twenty-two men who said they were abused by a priest when they were boys have settled their estimated $44 million lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Church. Details weren't disclosed but the church apologized to the men.

    The allegations against Fr. Maurice Grammond, 80, made it one of the nation's largest cases of clergy abuse. The plaintiffs charged that Grammond enticed them to engage in sexual acts from 1950 to 1974. Many of the plaintiffs, mostly former altar boys, who had kept quiet about the sexual abuse for decades, live in Ore., ranging in age from 39 to 61.

    The settlement and the church's apology were announced at the county Courthouse in Portland. A state judge and a federal judge acted as mediators in efforts to keep the case from going into a lengthy and expensive trial.

    "This settlement ends half a century of fear, secrecy, silence and shame that protected Fr. Grammond,'' said David Slader, the lawyer for the plaintiffs. In addition to the apology, the church agreed to head a task force to recommend policies to avoid abuse. And it will review files of active priests who have been subjects of child abuse complaints and offer
    counseling to other victims.

    "In non-monetary terms, so far as we know, this case is unique in the nation," Slader said.

    No criminal charges against Grammond are possible. The statute of limitations has run out. Grammond is a resident of the Alzheimer's unit of a retirement center.

    The archdiocese had earlier issued a statement saying it confronted Grammond after an accusation in 1991 and that Grammond denied the claims. “The Archbishop sent him for professional assessment and suspended him of all priestly ministry,” the statement said. The archdiocese had been accused, among other things, of failure to notify parishioners of Grammond’s past molestations of boys, failure to monitor his activities and advise authorities and failure to have other adults accompany Grammond on camping trips and other youth activities.

    The lawsuit asked for at least $4.6 million for each defendant, but the amount of the settlement was kept confidential by both sides.
    AP 10/10/2000, 5/29



    PHILADELPHIA — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, 58, in the murder of his wife, Carol, who was bludgeoned to death in the couple’s home in Nov. 1994.

    Neulander, already facing murder and conspiracy charges in the killing, was charged anew in a superseding indictment that could expose him to the death penalty if he is convicted. The grand jury charged him with capital murder, felony murder and conspiracy.

    Prosecutors say the rabbi arranged his wife’s death so he could pursue a romance with Elaine Soncini, a Philadelphia radio host, without getting a divorce and risking financial trouble or the loss of his Cherry Hill synagogue, M’kor Shalom. Neulander pleaded not guilty to the initial charges and has been free on $400,000 bail since his arrest in Sept. 1998. He has denied any role in the crime.

    At a news conference outside his home late yesterday afternoon, he called the charges against him “baseless and empty.”

    “I am very anxious to get into the courtroom and separate those lies that will become evident from the truth that I know,” he said, joined by his lawyers. “I’m innocent of all of these charges against me — of anything that I might have done to have even thought of harming my wife — and I look forward to my day in court.”

    He was to be arraigned and the prosecutor said his office would seek to have the rabbi held without bail. The decision to seek the death penalty came after two South Jersey men confessed to committing the crime and said the rabbi had hired them. Len Jenoff, 54, and Paul Michael Daniels, 26, have pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and agreed to testify against the rabbi at trial. Lawyers for Rabbi Neulander have questioned the credibility of Jenoff, who has admitted having initially lied to authorities, and have said both men are lying about the rabbi’s involvement. The defense lawyers said that they would resist the prosecutor’s efforts to revoke bail.

    Jenoff, a recovering alcoholic who met the rabbi when he sought his religious counsel, has said the rabbi promised to pay him $30,000 to kill his wife.

    He has said that the rabbi described his wife as an “enemy of Israel” intent on harming him and the Jewish community and that the rabbi promised that if Jenoff carried out the murder without getting caught, he would try to help Jenoff land a job with the Israeli intelligence agency.

    Jenoff has said that he enlisted Daniels, his roommate, to help carry out the slaying and that the two men beat Carol Neulander to death with a pipe. The death of the 52-year-old mother of three and founder of two popular South Jersey bakeries saddened the community and congregants at M’kor Shalom, the synagogue that she and her husband helped start in 1974.

    Lawyers for Neulander said they likely would ask for a change of venue for the trial because of the intense publicity. The case has drawn national attention. Law enforcement officials maintained round-the-clock surveillance in case the rabbi decided to flee.
    Inquirer 6/21/2000



    GREENWOOD — A minister and former school library aide has been charged with 16 more counts of sexually molesting children after police identified more victims from homemade videotapes.

    Fernando Garcia — held on a $4 million bond — is now charged with a total of 44 counts of sexual misconduct with at least 15 victims, police say.

    “Investigators probably still have several weeks of work left to do — more charges are likely,” said the police chief.

    Garcia was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and 14 counts of lewd acts on a minor. The latest charges accuse him of fondling children at an elementary school, where he worked for two years, and at the Abbeville Baptist Association, where he was pioneering a Hispanic ministry.

    Garcia came to Greenwood from Carson City, Nev., two years ago. The Chihuahua, Mexico-native is a husband and father of two teen-age children.
    AP 6/28/2000



    KNOXVILLE - The former youth minister of a Powell church faces charges of sexual exploitation of a minor. The charges come after a computer consultant found pornographic images of children on a church laptop, according to the church's senior pastor.

    Jason Patrick Edelen, 24, was arrested on child pornography charges, according to an arrest report at the Sheriff's Department.

    Edelen was served with criminal warrants shortly after midnight, according to the arrest report. Edelen faces charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, the report states. Both charges are felonies.

    The charges apparently stem from an investigation that began after a computer consultant scouring a church computer for viruses came across files containing pornographic images of children, according to Brian Kearns, the senior minister at Lighthouse Christian Church.

    According to the Tennessee Code Annotated, both offenses deal with the possession of materials depicting minors engaged in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity.

    According to Kearns, on June 26 church officials discovered files containing pornographic images on a church-owned laptop computer. The next day, church leaders confronted Edelen, who had permission to use the machine, Kearns said.

    Kearns said Edelen resigned minutes after being told he was suspended. Kearns said officials then turned the information over to authorities for further investigation. He said church officials believe the incident only concerns images obtained over the Internet.

    "There's no evidence there was physical interaction with anyone," Kearns said, adding that he didn't believe that any children in the church's youth group saw any of the images.

    Edelen was the first youth minister ever at Lighthouse Christian Church, which was founded in March 1998. Edelen was hired two months later.

    "This is difficult to take," said Kearns, who has known Edelen since Kearns was a youth pastor in Springfield, Kent. "We're serious about this. Our goal is to restore him back to health and a part of that is discipline," Kearns said. He said the church also arranged for Edelen to obtain counseling after the discovery of the files.

    Records show Edelen was jailed in lieu of $7,500 bond.
    News-Sentinel 10/3/2000

    NASHVILLE — The Diocese of Nashville claims victims of a former priest should share any blame it is facing in two lawsuits for not reporting earlier molestation to authorities.

    Diocese lawyers have said in court documents that if the church is held liable for failing to tell authorities about earlier child sex abuse by Edward McKeown, 56, then those victims should share the responsibility since they did not report him to authorities. McKeown has admitted to sexually molesting two boys since 1995 and another 21 schoolboys before then.

    McKeown received a 25-year prison sentence in June 1999 after he pleaded guilty to repeatedly raping and molesting a boy since 1995, when the boy was 12. In a conversation tape-recorded by that boy, McKeown apologized for the prolonged abuse and said that a priest had abused him when he was a child here.

    Church officials have said, in response to $35 million civil damage suits filed by that boy and another boy McKeown has admitted molesting in 1995, that they had no obligation to warn those boys or anyone else about McKeown’s “past history.”

    In addition, the lawyers said, any blame for failing to report abuse by McKeown should be shared with 3 doctors who treated him in the 1980s, with members of Sexaholics Anonymous, a support group that he attended, and with Juvenile Court officials who allegedly knew why McKeown was forced to leave the priesthood in 1989.

    One of the boys who is now suing McKeown was placed in his custody by a Juvenile Court referee in 1998.

    Also in the documents filed in June, the lawyers say an employee of the state Dept. of Human Services told a church official in 1986 that it was not necessary to file a report on an allegation that McKeown had molested a student when he taught at Father Ryan High School in 1972.

    That’s because, the lawyers said, church officials did not know of any “child in peril” at the time the abuse was reported to them in 1986.

    The church said that its report to DHS employee Alice Reed in 1986, concerning alleged earlier abuse of someone who was then an adult, satisfied its duty under state law “to report the existence of a pedophile.” But, the diocese’s lawyers said, if the church should be held liable for McKeown’s abuse of the two boys since 1995, Reed too “was at fault for failing to adequately react” to its report about McKeown.

    The church is not attempting to recover any money from the people it has now cited in court documents, but it is attempting to reduce any damages it might have to pay by bringing the additional people into the case under the legal theory of “comparative fault.”
    A defendant in a civil suit can be held liable only for the percentage of blame which a judge or jury assesses to it. Lawyers for the Diocese of Nashville said that any harm that came to the two boys who are now suing the church, McKeown and the Metro government (for allegedly failing to adequately investigate a complaint from the mother of one of the boys in 1995) was “caused by intervening factors that came into existence far after any alleged act or omission” by church officials.

    But, the lawyers said, if the church is held liable for failing to tell law enforcement authorities more about McKeown’s sexual proclivities, blame should also be shared with a court clerk, several judges and a parole officer.

    The clerk, who employed McKeown in his office for a few months in 1990, has said he did not know why McKeown left the priesthood. McKeown later researched records in the Juvenile Court clerk’s office for Maximus, a company that helps to collect child support payments.

    Church officials required McKeown to get treatment for pedophilia in 1986, and forced him to leave the priesthood in 1989 after determining that he still did not have his sexual desires under control.

    The two boys’ lawsuits are tentatively set to be tried next summer.
    The Tennessean 8/16/2000



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