Priest Charged with Enticing Minor

By Pat Reavy
Deseret News (Salt Lake City)
May 16, 2003

OGDEN — A Catholic priest was charged today with enticing a minor over the Internet, a class A misdemeanor, by the Weber County Attorney's Office.

The Rev. Mario Arbelaez Olarte of St. Joseph's Catholic Parish in Ogden was arrested Wednesday night after allegedly trying to entice a boy over the Internet. The "boy," however, turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Olarte allegedly started a conversation with a person he thought was a 15-year-old boy in a gay chat room, said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Rod Layton, with the Northern Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

"It was unusually quick. The whole conversation lasted less than 30 minutes," he said. "(Olarte) indicated he was a white male and that he was interested in meeting. I don't think he gave his age."

Olarte told the undercover officer to meet at 25th Street and Adams Avenue. He said he would be the one honking his car horn, Layton said.

Members of the task force quickly set up surveillance in the area and watched Olarte drive by three times before he honked his horn. He was then approached by agents and arrested.

Calls placed by the Deseret News to St. Joseph's were referred to the Catholic diocese in Salt Lake City.

The diocese released a statement today that Olarte had been placed on administrative leave and "may not function as a priest."

"Our diocesan policies regarding sexual misconduct as well as the principles in the U.S. Bishops 2002 Charter for the protection of children and young people will determine our course of action in regard to Father Olarte," according to the statement.

Olarte has been the assistant priest at St. Joseph's since August 2000. Before that, he was an assistant priest in Midvale. He came to the United States from Colombia in 1997, according to the diocese.

In an interview Thursday night with the Ogden Standard-Examiner, Olarte said he was embarrassed about what happened, but said he was only conducting research for an upcoming lesson.

Layton told the Deseret News today he didn't believe that excuse.

"That's a very common explanation when they meet us," he said. "This was no different. We don't believe that to be true." Layton said there was nothing during the conversation with the undercover officer that indicated Olarte was doing research. In fact, Layton said they wouldn't have arrested Olarte if he hadn't made some mention of sexual activity.

"He clearly met the elements of the crime," Layton said.

After he was arrested, Olarte consented for investigators to search his computer at St. Joseph's. During a brief inspection of the computer, investigators found some images of gay pornography, Layton said. A more thorough inspection of the computer was expected to be completed soon.

After being booked into the Weber County Jail and interviewed, Olarte was released on his own recognizance. An initial court appearance is expected Monday.


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