The FBI has launched a sprawling sex abuse investigation into the Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans that’s targeting predator priests who may have taken kids across state lines to molest them and were never reported to law enforcement, it was revealed Wednesday.
So far this year, more than a dozen alleged victims have been interviewed by federal investigators and some of the cases include allegations that clergy members abused kids during trips to amusement parks in Texas and Florida and camps in Mississippi.
“It’s been a long road and just the fact that someone this high up believes us means the world to us,” a former altar boy, who claims he was abused beginning in the 1970s while in the fifth grade and on trips to Colorado and Florida, told the Associated Press.
The probe, which is a rare undertaking for federal investigators, is examining whether aging members of the clergy can be charged with violating federal law, including the Mann Act — a 1910 anti-sex-trafficking law that prohibits bringing people out of state for illicit sex.
While many of the cases stemming from the Big Easy happened decades ago, few have ever led to criminal charges, though the Mann Act has no statute of limitations. It’s been used to secure convictions in high-profile federal sex abuse cases, including against Ghislaine Maxwell and R. Kelly, who were both accused of decades-old abuses.
One of the priests being scrutinized by federal investigators is 90-year-old Lawrence Hecker, who was removed from the ministry in 2002 after he was accused of abusing “countless children.”
The allegations against him, going back decades, stem from out-of-state trips and range from fondling to rape.
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SOURCE: New York Post, Gabrielle Fonrouge