Suspended Catholic Priest Pleads Guilty
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Israel Berríos-Berríos, a suspended Catholic priest, pleaded guilty today to transporting a minor with the intent to engage criminal sexual conduct, announced Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. Berríos-Berríos is facing a possible sentence of 10 to 12 years in prison.
The indictment charged that from on or about July 21, 2008, through on or about July 25, 2008, the defendant did knowingly transport an individual, who had not attained the age of 18 years, in interstate and foreign commerce, with the intent to engage in any sexual activity for which a person could be charged with a criminal offense. According to the Government’s version of facts, the defendant did transport a then 15 year-old male minor identified as “John Doe” to the City of Miami, Florida, where together they took a four-day cruise to the Bahamas aboard the vessel known as “Majesty of the Seas.” While on the cruise the defendant engaged in lewd acts with John Doe, which constitutes a violation of Title 18, USC, Section 2423(a).
“The USAO for the District of Puerto Rico is committed to taking full advantage of our investigative tools in order to protect our children from sexual predators,” said United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “We commend our team of prosecutors and investigators who worked tirelessly in this case and today achieved this conviction. The public should be reminded to report all inappropriate behavior with children to their local authorities and together, local and federal law enforcement, will see that justice is carried out.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshal D. Morgan, Coordinator of the initiative Project Safe Childhood, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elba Gorbea.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ offices and 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.projectsafechildhood.gov.