Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

March –
June 1999

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    FAIRBANKS — A Baptist pastor from an interior village was arrested on charges he molested his adopted teen-age daughter, State Troopers said.

    Richard Cook, 46, is accused of having sex with the girl twice and touching her genitals often during the past 19 months, according to court documents. He has been charged with one count each of first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

    Troopers said Cook first sexually touched the victim, then 13, in Oct. 1997. Four months later, the molestation became an "almost daily" event despite the girl's protests, according to court documents.

    The girl's adoptive mother, who had started working outside the home, suspected something was amiss because Cook "changed his behavior and demeanor," according to the documents. But when she questioned her husband and daughter, both denied anything was going on, troopers said. The girl attempted suicide before she reported what happened.

    Troopers said Cook has since admitted to the sexual contact, stating he knew his actions were wrong but that he "just got mixed up a bit," according to documents.

    He was arrested at a Fairbanks motel. Cook and the women had traveled to town to seek help, said police.
    AP 4/27



    TUCSON — The Diocese of Tucson is being sued by a couple who claim their son was sexually abused 20 years ago by two parish priests, causing him to become seriously disturbed, rebellious and defiant.

    Robert and Rosemary Williams allege their son, William, was sexually abused and given alcohol and marijuana by the priests from 1976 to 1979. The parents said they were not aware of the alleged abuse until their son — now 34 — recently told them.

    William Williams is recuperating from longtime drug abuse and was estranged from his family for many years, said the family's attorney.

    The suit seeks undisclosed financial damages. Named in the suit are Fr. William T. Byrne, the former pastor who died in 1991, and Msg. Robert C. Trupia, a former priest-in-residence at the same church who has been on "non-active" status since 1990.
    AP 4/15



    SAN JOSE — A priest and founder of a San Jose church was arrested on suspicion of conducting a six-year sexual relationship with one of his altar boys, police said.

    Fr. Alexander Ong Verzosa, 39, was taken into custody at the travel agency where he works, said the commander of the San Jose police sexual-assault investigations unit. Police obtained an arrest warrant charging him with 3 sex offenses after launching an investigation May 26, he said.

    He would not specify how the case came to the attention of police, but added that interviews with the victim and other evidence convinced detectives to obtain a warrant.

    He said Verzosa began the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The church occupies part of a building in an industrial complex along with another church and several businesses. The boy is a minor, but the lieutenant said he would not specify the child's age because it would identify him to members of the congregation.

    Verzosa, a Pittsburgh resident, was being held at the Oakland city jail. San Jose officers probably will transfer him to Santa Clara County Jail. Police say they were trying to determine whether Verzosa may have assaulted others.
    San Jose Mercury 6/5

    STOCKTON — Two men molested as children by a Diocese of Stockton priest have agreed to a $7.5 million settlement and possible future payments from the diocese's insurers.

    The settlement, reached after 10 months of negotiations, halts the diocese's appeal of a jury verdict that awarded the men $29.5 million last July.

    It calls for the attorneys who represented the victims to represent the diocese in a lawsuit against three insurance companies who have refused to pay on the diocese's claims. The jury's award was among the largest against the Roman Catholic Church in recent molestation cases. Joh and James Howard were molested by Fr. Oliver O'Grady from the time they were young children.

    O'Grady was suspended from ministry but not removed from the priesthood. He pleaded guilty to molestation in 1993 and is incarcerated in state prison. He is expected to be released in 2000.
    AP 5/16

    LOS ANGELES — A 35-year-old man who allegedly threatened to kill Cardinal Roger Mahony was barred by court order from coming within 100 yards of the prelate for the next three years, according to court officials.

    A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge granted an injunction against Michael Patrick Falls of Azusa, who allegedly threatened Mahony on March 11 as Falls was trying to gain entry to Charter Oak Hospital in Covina.

    According to court records, Falls told a Charter Oak employee that he had psychiatric problems and that as soon as he got out of the hospital he was going to assassinate Mahony.

    Several years ago, Falls and 8 other former altar boys sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, alleging that a former priest had sexually molested them. The case was eventually dismissed by the state Supreme Court. Falls allegedly blamed the cardinal for allowing that priest to continue in the priesthood. Falls did not attend the court hearing, nor was he represented by an attorney.
    LA Times 4/20

    LOS ANGELES — A synagogue official deported from Canada after mailing child pornography to an undercover FBI agent was sentenced here to 15 months in federal prison.

    Stuart Friedman, 45, who served as the cantor of a synagogue in Canada, also must undergo three years of supervised release after finishing his prison term. Friedman pleaded guilty in Nov. to one count of distributing child pornography, which carries a maximum 15-year prison term. The judge ordered him to begin serving his sentence April 12.

    Friedman, who is originally from Philadelphia, had been a synagogue cantor — the individual who leads a congregation in song — in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In Nov. 1996, he mailed two computer disks containing 13 images of boys having sex to an undercover FBI agent in Long Beach. He was convicted in 1997 at Nova Scotia Provincial Court of possessing child pornography and deported to the United States. Friedman moved to Baltimore, where he was arrested in Aug. on the federal charge of distributing child pornography.
    LA Times, 3/2



    EAST LYME — Fr. Richard Buongirno, 55, has been arrested on charges he sexually abused a child. Buongirno turned himself in to the state police. He is charged with four counts of felony risk of injury to a minor. State police say the sexual abuse began shortly after Buongirno came to St. Matthias Church in 1990 and the incidents allegedly continued for a year.

    Parishioners at the church and three others where Buongirno has been stationed in the last decade were warned weeks before by the Diocese of Norwich that the priest was being investigated for allegations of misconduct. Buongirno petitioned the church last month to leave the priesthood. Diocese officials say Buongirno was relieved of his duties last year, when the allegations first arose, and since then has been suspended from all priestly duties, but freed on $150,000 bond.
    AP 6/11



    PORT CHARLOTTE — The Diocese of Venice will pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging church officials failed to prevent an altar boy from being molested by a priest and choir director. The diocese also has agreed to pay for any future psychological counseling for the former altar boy, his attorney said. The diocese ack-nowledged that the former altar boy, now 22, was molested by Fr. Ed McLoughlin - then assistant pastor - and former choir director Richard Trepinski.

    The lawsuit claimed that Bp. John Nevins and Fr. Nicholas McLoughlin, pastor of the church, failed to prevent the abuse. The men allegedly knew that Trepinski and Ed McLoughlin had propensities to molest young boys yet allowed them unsupervised contact with youth.

    Trepinski pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a minor in 1993 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Ed McLoughlin has been living in Ireland and relieved of active duties. Complaints against him go back to the early 1980s when he was an assistant pastor in Venice, the lawsuit claimed.

    He was sent to St. Charles Borromeo so his brother, pastor Fr. Nicholas McLoughlin, could watch over him, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. The victim said Trepinski began molesting him in 1991 when he was 13. When he confided in Ed McLoughlin about the abuse, the priest said he needed to be punished and spanked him. McLoughlin then began molesting him, the victim said, and the abuse continued for 2 1/2 years.
    AP 6/10

    TAMPA — A judge has placed a church on 5 years' probation and fined it $5,000 as part of a plea agreement over allegations of trafficking in food stamps and dealing in stolen property.

    As part of the deal with prosecutors, Deeper Life Christian Church was also ordered to pay $21,710 to cover the cost of a sheriff's office investigation into the allegations of food stamp fraud.

    In exchange for the church's guilty plea, prosecutors dropped all charges against the church bishop, Melvin B. Jefferson Sr., and his second in command, Brenda Houston Lanier. "As far as we know, this is the first time in the state of Florida that a church has been convicted as a felon," an assistant state attorney said.

    Five other Deeper Life ministers, including the sons of Jefferson and Lanier, also entered guilty pleas and were sentenced to probation. Investigators claimed that the church laundered up to $20,000 a month in illegally obtained food stamps through two meat markets it owns.

    Deeper Life ministers were accused of buying meat for the meat markets that an informant had told them was stolen and of accepting food stamps as tithes and payment for services from the church. Authorities said the food stamps came from church parishioners and probationers assigned to perform court-ordered community service at the church.
    AP 6/8

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pastor Conny Sjostrom told some of the women he counseled for alcohol and substance abuse problems that they were special. Kerry Fitzgerald wanted to hear those words and said she trusted a man of the cloth to help her through the toughest battle of her life.

    Now Fitzgerald, who went to Sjostrom for help in overcoming her alcoholism, is suing him, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, of Chicago, and the Florida-Bahama Synod, its local governing body.

    In a civil trial in circuit court, Fitzgerald said that Sjostrom took advantage of her sexually during counseling sessions in his Fort Lauderdale office and at her home. Her lawyers say the church failed to supervise Sjostrom adequately and ignored warnings from other women, including one of his former wives, that he used his clerical collar to gain their trust and then had sexual contact with them.
    Sun-Sentinel 4/27

    PALM BEACH — Disgraced bishop J. Keith Symons, 66, formerly of the Diocese of Palm Beach, has returned to the ministry. Symons led a daylong program of prayer and meditation at the St. Francis retreat center in DeWitt, Mich. Bp. Carl Mengeling, head of the Diocese of Lansing, asked him to offer spiritual leadership to the faithful for a day dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

    A year ago, Symons admitted sexually abusing 5 young men early in his priestly ministry, about 35 years ago. He resigned his office after nearly 8 years as leader of the Diocese of Palm Beach. Symons was quickly and quietly sent to an undisclosed treatment center, according to church spokesmen at the time. His whereabouts have been officially unknown. Apparently, he is near DeWitt, a little town about 6 miles from Lansing, Michigan's capital city. Apparently his treatment has been judged successful, and he is about the ministry again.
    Post 4/21

    MASCOTTE — A Baptist preacher was charged with molesting three foster children left in his care. Pastor William Nathan White, Jr., 50, was being held at the county jail on $45,000 bond, charged with three counts of sexual battery of a child under age 12, a capital offense, jail officials said.

    Following his arrest, 8 foster children and 3 adopted children were removed from his home and placed in other foster homes according to a spokeswoman for the state Dept. of Children & Families. State records show that White and his wife, Susan, have taken in at least 20 children since they were licensed by the state to become foster parents in 1995.

    White first was accused of sexual battery when a 7-year-old girl, who lived with the family for two weeks, told her natural mother during a visit monitored by social workers that White had molested her a sheriff's spokesman said. The girl told investigators that while sitting on White's lap, the minister asked her if anyone had ever touched her "private area." White then placed his hand inside her clothing and fondled her, reports said.

    In a videotaped interview, a 10-year-old told authorities White had repeatedly molested her since she came to live with him in Aug., according to reports. An 11-year-old, who lived with the Whites from Aug. into Nov., said the pastor often had her sit on his lap while she played computer games, and he once fondled her, records said.

    Investigators plan to question every child the Whites have had in their custody since 1995. State social workers are also reviewing their files to determine if there were any concerns raised about the Whites' home in the past
    AP 3/5



    LIHUE — A self-proclaimed Buddhist priest pleaded no contest to 20 counts of sexual assault involving a young girl.

    Thich An Thanh, 53, had been charged with 551 counts of sexual assault against the girl. The extra counts were dropped under a plea agreement with prosecutors. An Thanh, a Cambodian national, faces a prison term of up to 400 years and a maximum fine of $1 million.

    An indictment returned in March by a Kauai grand jury accused An Thanh of sexually assaulting the girl from 1996, when she was 12, until 1998. She says the attacks occurred after regularly-scheduled religious services An Than held in a Kilauea barn.

    The girl was 6 years old when she and her mother met An Thanh when they began attending religious sessions he held in Los Angeles, police said, and they followed him when he moved to Kauai 6 years ago.
    AP 6/11, 5/12



    CHICAGO — A former pastor from Bridgeview has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for having sex with a 16-year-old church member. Scott A. Shelby, 30, formerly of Calvary Tabernacle Church pleaded guilty to 3 counts of criminal sexual assault against a juvenile.
    Sun-Times 6/?

    ROCKFORD — Roald Hasley, a retired bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has resigned from the clergy a week after he was stripped of his duties amid allegations of sexual misconduct. 4 women claimed he engaged in improper sexual conduct while he was a bishop, church officials said.
    Daily Herald, 5/29
    PEORIA — The Diocese of Peoria announced a settlement in the civil lawsuit involving a former pastor accused of sexually abusing minors. Terms of the settlement were not released.

    Msg. Norman Goodman, a pastor in Lincoln for 35 years, was accused of molesting 12 altar boys and another youth between 1970 and 1991 in the suit filed last Aug. The suit sought $1 million in punitive damages and an additional $50,000 for each of the 13 alleged victims.

    "Goodman has denied and continues to deny these allegations and is not a party to this settlement," the diocese said in a prepared statement.

    The case erupted in Dec. 1997, when 4 former altar boys accused Goodman of sexual abuse. As many as 21 former altar boys leveled similar charges against him. Three of the former altar boys also had accused Goodman of striking them with a Bible for the purpose of sexual gratification.

    Goodman abruptly ended his long career in Oct. 1997, leaving parishioners with only a farewell message in the church bulletin. No criminal charges have been filed.
    Journal Star 4/10



    FORT WAYNE— The second youth pastor from from Good Shepherd United Brethren Church in Huntington to stand trial for child molesting in just over two years has been convicted in circuit court.

    A jury deliberated just under three hours before finding Bobbie Joe Parris, 35, formerly of Huntington, guilty of of child molesting. A teen-age girl testified that she was "uncomfortable" when her church youth pastor pulled up her shirt and kissed her stomach at his apartment last Aug.
    Journal Gazette 2/19



    DUBUQUE — A woman is suing her former pastor and the Baptist church for which he worked. Sheldon D. Stotmeister is accused of having exploited the woman in order to have a sexual relationship when Kim Deutmeyer came to him for counseling. He is also alleged to have encouraged her to divorce her husband and to not tell anyone about the relationship.

    Two weeks earlier, her ex-husband Darrell, filed a similar suit.

    Stotmeister resigned in March and was arrested in Aug. on charges of sexual exploitation by a counselor as a result of his relationship.
    Telegraph Herald, 4/15

    DUBUQUE — An unidentified man is suing the Archdiocese of Dubuque, claiming he was sexually abused by a priest from 1966 to 1971. In court documents, the man alleges he was repeated molested by Fr. John J. Brickley, now deceased, in churches, a rectory, during outings and church-sponsored activities.
    Telegraph Herald 3/2



    FRANKFORT — A former priest who admitted to an affair with a woman he was counseling can be sued by her husband, the state Court of Appeals ruled. A three-judge panel reinstated a lawsuit against Kevin Osborne, a onetime parish priest in Owensboro, that had been dismissed in circuit court. The appellate panel declined to reinstate the Diocese of Owensboro as a co-defendant, however.

    The ruling allows Charles Anthony Payne to try to prove that Osborne's conduct was outrageous enough to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress. Payne and wife Brenda were in marital counseling with Osborne when Payne discovered the affair in June 1995. Osborne and Mrs. Payne left the state together, according to the appellate opinion. Osborne said the relationship lasted only 45 days.
    AP 6/4



    BATON ROUGE — An appeals court refused to grant a new trial to a former priest convicted of raping an altar boy. The court rejected claims by Robert Lester Melancon, who was convicted of rape and sentenced in 1996.

    The former altar boy testified that he was molested and repeatedly raped by the priest in Houma beginning when he was 8 years old. Defense attorneys appealed the conviction, saying the trial should have been moved out of Houma because of heavy media coverage. The trial judge closed jury selection but refused to move the trial.

    The defense also claimed the judge should have declared a mistrial after another former altar boy testified that Melancon showed him adult movies and performed oral sex on him. Witnesses were only supposed to testify about alleged acts that were the same as those committed on the rape victim. None of the victim's allegations involved adult movies or oral sex.

    The three-judge panel said in the ruling the publicity surrounding the case did not jeopardize justice.
    AP 5/18

    BATON ROUGE — A former teacher and minister was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sodomizing 4 boys who lived in his home as foster-care children.

    Gregory Riley, 33, hands shackled at his waist, apologized to two of his victims before sentence was handed down. One of the victims, who is 16 now, said in court that he forgives Riley because that is what God teaches.

    Riley's attacks began in 1993 and ended in 1997. The boys were ages 6, 9, 11 and 13 when the attacks started. Riley admitted in court he had anal sex with the boys and made some of them have sex with each other. He pleaded guilty in Dec. to 5 counts of molestation of a juvenile and 3 counts of sexual battery. Riley had been in the foster program since 1992. He taught in the public school system as an elementary and middle school teacher from 1990 through 1997. His defense attorney tried to persuade the court to put Riley on probation and send him to a Minnesota program that treats men convicted of sex crimes.

    But the judge gave 6 reasons why Riley should go to prison, including the "horror" he had inflicted on his victims and his psychological abuse of threatening to get the boys in trouble if they reported what occurred. Jackson also noted how long the attacks occurred. "This was not fondling," she said. "These were actually rapes." Finally, Jackson said, Riley's victims need to know he is paying a price. "At this juncture, what is needed is punishment and accountability. These children need to know you are being held accountable for what you've done."
    AP 5/1



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