|Pedophile Priest Working near Kids
November 23, 2009
BOSTON (FOX25, myfoxboston) - Even if an employer checks someone's criminal record, it's no guarantee that person's past is unblemished.
Fox Undercover has discovered a disturbing example: a former priest who admitted sexually abusing boys who is working in a place where he has access to children.
The clergy sex abuse scandal implicated thousands of Catholic priests, but most of them never faced criminal charges. Some are now working other jobs, and because they were never prosecuted, their criminal background checks come up clean and they're not listed on any sex offender registry.
We found one former priest who was stripped of his priesthood working as a car salesman in Massachusetts at a place where parents bring their children.
Roland Lepire walks the lot at Boch New to You, a used car dealer in Norwood. Two customers, who brought along their young child, have no clue about their salesman's past. That past includes an admission that he molested five boys while he was a priest at different parishes in Rhode Island.
Lepire's admission is contained in a 1996 psychological evaluation made public during litigation in which the Diocese of Providence paid out more than $15 million to alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, including people who say they were molested by Lepire.
"He (Lepire) had an M.O., a pattern of behavior," says Carl DeLuca, who represented Lepire's alleged victims and discovered the psychiatrist's report in documents handed over by the church. "And his pattern frequently involved wrestling, and that he would engage the young boys in wrestling and that's where the groping would start."
The psychiatrist evaluating Lepire cites a "wrestling situation with a nine year old boy in a rectory common area" in the late 1970's "...which led to Father's inappropriate fondling of the young boy's genitals."
According to the report, "...no charges were filed with the understanding that Father Lepire would continue in therapy and that he would be transferred out of that particular parish."
The psychiatrist writes that "within eight months of being in the new assignment, Father Lepire reports that he touched four, twelve year old boys, one time each, over the period of one month." "Father states he was wrestling with the boys and found himself fondling their genitals..." the report states.
Says DeLuca: "There's no doubt in my mind that he was a predator and I think it's highly likely that he continues to be a predator. My understanding of the nature of this problem is that it doesn't go away, and that they need to be monitored."
Fox Undercover monitored Lepire at the dealership in recent weeks. We saw him with customers at his desk, which is located directly across from the play area for children.
We approached Lepire in the Boch New to You lot last week and asked him if he thought he should be working there. Lepire said "yes."
We asked him, given that he had admitted to molesting boys, whether he thought he should be working at a job where he comes in contact with children. He said: "No comment. Everything's public. Everybody's public here, so..." He said he "never" goes into the play area.
Lepire said he believes customers have a right to know about his admission that he molested boys, but when we asked him if he discloses that fact, he said, "You're talking about something that happened 26 years ago."
We interviewed a former employee of Boch New to You who says it was "very common" that Lepire could have access to children at the dealership. That employee was fired in September after uncovering Lepire's past with a simple Google search and then talking about it with other employees. He asked us to withhold his identity because he is worried about finding another job.
"They were trying to keep (Lepire's past) hush hush," the fired employee said of his former bosses at Boch New to You.
That worker lost his job, but Lepire kept his.
We asked Michael Shafman, vice president of operations at Boch New to You, about the ex-employee's allegation he was fired because the company wanted to keep the information about Lepire under wraps.
"Well obviously, through you folks, it's public information," Shafman says. "The last thing we would ever want to do would be to knowingly harbor someone that we shouldn't have in our environment."
Shafman says the company hired Lepire in May after checking references, which he says were good, and his criminal record, which Shafman says came up clean. He admits the company learned in September, from the now-fired employee, about past sexual abuse allegations against Lepire, and started it's own investigation.
But Shafman says the company did not realize Lepire actually admitted to abusing boys, even thought that information is easily accessible online.
Asked if the company's investigation of Lepire's background was lacking, Shafman says, "I think that that's a fair accusation that we acknowledge."
As for the fired worker, Shafman says company executives let him go because they decided he was harassing Lepire and other employees. After we told those company executives about Lepire's admission, they fired the former Priest.
Now Boch New to You is installing a camera in the children's play area and pledging to do a better job screening employees. "I think the criminal background check that our society has has loopholes in it," Shafman says.
Adds DeLuca: "The problem here is that most of these perpetrators never were convicted of crimes, and therefore they don't end up on any lists. They're not watched. They're not officially watched."
That can leave employers and unsuspecting parents in the dark.
"There is the danger that when these people go back out in the world, that they're going to be exposed to children," DeLuca says. "And if their reputations don't follow them there is a danger that they can perpetrate again."
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia lists on its website all priests removed from service because of sexual abuse allegations, regardless of whether they were ultimately convicted of a crime. That's not the case in the Archdiocese of Boston or in the Diocese of Providence, where Lepire served.
Boch's vice president says a list like that would have been helpful when the company investigated the allegations against Lepire back in September.
In the wake of our investigation, spokespeople for both the Providence Diocese and the Boston Archdiocese told us they are open to adding similar features to their websites.
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