Honduran Orphan Tells Jury of Somerset County Priest's Molestation of Teens
By Paul Peirce
September 11, 2015
A Honduran man told a federal jury Friday that he was molested by a Somerset County Catholic priest six years ago when he lived in an orphanage in Honduras. He said he also saw the priest having sex with another teenage orphan in a church at the mission later in the day.
The man, now 22, testified on the second day of the Rev. Joseph Maurizio's sex trial in U.S. District Court in Johnstown. His testimony about both incidents was corroborated by a second Honduran who lived at the mission in 2009 when Maurizio visited.
Prosecutors allege that Maurizio used money from a foundation he established while pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Central City, Somerset County, to benefit the ProNino orphanage in Honduras. They allege he traveled there to molest and have sex with homeless boys who lived in the orphanage from 2003 to 2009.
The alleged victim, who was 16 years old, testified Maurizio specifically asked the orphanage administrators in March 2009 that he and two other orphans accompany him on a drive to a warehouse where food and clothing donated by the priest's self-run Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries were stored. They were going to take the goods back to the mission.
“Every March he would come down (from Pennsylvania) and bring gifts and chocolates,” the man testified under questioning from U.S. Justice Department attorney Amy E. Larson.
As they were loading goods from the warehouse into a truck, the man said, he and Maurizio were alone inside the facility and the priest grabbed his genitals.
“He touched me inside my pants with his hand. I had on a pair of white shorts,” the man said. “He asked me if I could masturbate in front of him and how much I charged.”
He told jurors he refused.
The man testified that Maurizio molested him a second time in a sport utility vehicle as the two drove back to the orphanage. He said Maurizio paid him 500 Honduran lempiras — approximately $23 U.S. dollars — afterward.
The jury of seven men and five women heard from another Honduran orphan, named Luis, who said he went with the alleged victim and Maurizio to pick up the items and that he witnessed the sex acts. Luis testified that he and the alleged victim were “best friends” and that all orphans at the mission looked forward to Maurizio's visits every spring because of the “chocolates, clothes and gifts” he would bring.
Luis, now 20, said that on the way to the warehouse, he overheard Maurizio ask the alleged victim whether Luis “could be trusted” because he had never met him. The alleged victim told Maurizio that Luis was his friend and could be trusted, the witness testified.
“(Maurizio) was drinking coffee and driving. ... He then put (the victim's) hands on the steering wheel, unbuttoned (the victim's) pants and touched him. (Maurizio) then asked him how much he charged for such things and he paid him,” the witness said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Haines, who also is prosecuting the case, asked the witness: “How did it make you feel about what happened?”
“I felt bad for my friend ... but even worse about Father (Maurizio) because he was supposed to teach us positive things and he was doing things he should not be doing,” Luis replied.
Both Luis and the alleged victim said they returned to the mission and began unloading the items into the church. Then Maurizio took another boy who was helping inside and locked the church doors. They testified they looked in a window and saw the priest and boy having sex inside the church.
Both witnesses testified that they noticed after the pair had sex, Maurizio gave the third teenage orphan chocolate and money.
They said they did not report the incidents because they were scared.
The U.S. government flew both men from Honduras to Johnstown to testify. Because neither speaks English, they were assisted in testifying by a government interpreter.
Maurizio is charged with four counts of engaging in illicit conduct in foreign places; one count of child pornography; and three counts of transporting, transmitting or transferring funds into or out of the United States with the intent to promote unlawful activity.
He has pleaded not guilty.
He has been in the Cambria County Jail since his arrest by federal investigators Sept. 25.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or email@example.com.