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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 3, 2020

Former DeSales University Catholic Priest Indicted on Child Pornography Offenses

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that William McCandless, 56, of Wilmington, Delaware, a former DeSales University priest, was charged by Indictment with three counts of child pornography offenses.

Specifically, McCandless was charged with possessing child pornography for importation into the United States, transporting child pornography in interstate and foreign commerce, and attempting to access with intent to view child pornography.

During his initial appearance today in front of United States Magistrate Court Judge Henry S. Perkin, the defendant was arraigned on the pending charges. He was also ordered to be placed on home incarceration with electronic monitoring and to surrender his passport because he has frequently traveled overseas and has numerous contacts abroad. In fact, from 2010 until January 2017, as a member of the Catholic order of Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, McCandless was assigned to St. Charles Parish in the European Principality of Monaco.

While he was working overseas in Monaco, McCandless allegedly amassed a collection of thousands of images of child pornography, including what can be described as the torture of very young children, which he brought back with him to the United States when he returned in January 2017. Further, once back in the United States, the defendant allegedly attempted to access similar images, and also conducted Internet searches for things like how to get “off the grid,” how to “disappear” and how to erase items from “the cloud.”

“McCandless’ alleged conduct here is extremely disturbing. It occurred not just overseas but continued while he crossed international borders, purporting to do the work of the Church,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The innocent children in these images will have to deal with the impact of this alleged abuse for the rest of their lives. We can never make them fully whole again, but we can bring them some measure of justice by investigating and prosecuting the people who drive the demand for this abuse, no matter their affiliations.”

“For a priest and university faculty member to violate his position of trust by allegedly engaging in the depraved activity for which he has been indicted is reprehensible,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Philadelphia. “Homeland Security Investigations and our law enforcement partners around the world will continue to coordinate closely to ensure our communities are protected from child predators who seek to exploit vulnerable victims.”

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sherri A. Stephan and Trial Attorney Ralph Paradiso of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Contact: 
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA 615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250 Philadelphia, PA 19106 JENNIFER CRANDALL Media Contact 215-861-8300 If you have not done so already, follow @USAO_EDPA and @USAttyMcSwain on Twitter to get the most up-to-date information about big cases and community news.
Updated December 3, 2020