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Press Release

Pennsylvania Man Indicted in Oregon for Scheme to Defraud Four Dioceses of the Catholic Church

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon

Portland, Ore. - A federal grand jury in Portland has returned an indictment against Shamont Sapp, 49, charging him with mail fraud in a five-year scheme involving false claims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in four dioceses. Sapp, originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is alleged to have used "legal mail" while an inmate of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to file, pursue and litigate the false claims in federal courts from 2005 through 2010. According to the indictment, the false claims caused the dioceses, their representatives, several courts and other entities to expend money, time and other resources to investigate and resolve the claims, which were ultimately denied or dismissed.

The indictment states that the four fraudulent claims sought money damages, and each alleged similar sexual assaults by specified priests when Sapp was a minor in 1978-79. It charges that Sapp had not been sexually assaulted by the priests and, indeed, had not even been present in the dioceses as alleged in his claims.

Fraudulent claims listed in the indictment involved the dioceses of Tucson, Arizona; Covington, Kentucky, and Spokane, Washington, as well as the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon. In the Covington and Spokane cases, the indictment notes that Sapp falsely alleged sexual assaults by priests in two different cities on the same day, August 18, 1978.

Sapp initially will appear in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the government will seek his removal to Portland to face trial on the indictment.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of mail fraud, Sapp faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, as well as mandatory restitution for all damages incurred.

The case has been investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Stephen F. Peifer.

Updated January 29, 2015