Defense: Convicted priest has paid $70K for fines, victims
March 30, 2016
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A suspended Pennsylvania priest convicted of sexually assaulting poor street children during missionary trips to Honduras has paid $70,000 in fines and restitution, his attorneys said in a court filing.
The filing was in response to a motion by federal prosecutors on Friday seeking to freeze the assets of the Rev. Joseph Maurizio.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Haines said the 71-year-old priest had transferred 42 acres of land and his home for $1 to his niece in November, after he was convicted, and has continued trying to transfer money from his financial accounts to her since his March 2 sentencing. Haines cited a recorded phone call Maurizio made from jail to his niece on March 8 that involved draining his bank accounts, according to her motion.
But defense attorney Thomas Farrell told The Associated Press last week that Maurizio's niece was his power of attorney and was making the asset transfers only so she could pay a $50,000 fine and $20,000 restitution on the priest's behalf.
U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson gave Maurizio's attorneys until April 1 to respond to Haines' allegations and they did that Tuesday, complete with a copy of two checks dated Saturday, for the fine and restitution.
The defense filing said the prosecution's motion to freeze the priest's assets is now "moot."
"Further, it should be noted that there was no malicious intent to not comply" with the fine and restitution Gibson imposed along with a nearly 17-year prison sentence, the defense response said.
The delay in paying the fines and restitution, which had been due March 18, was "simply a misunderstanding" between Maurizio's attorneys and his niece, the defense filing said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh didn't immediately comment Wednesday on the defense filing. Gibson has yet to rule on the defense request to end the matter now that the fines and restitution have been paid.
Maurizio's two Honduran victims will evenly split the $20,000 in restitution.
A federal jury in Johnstown convicted Maurizio of molesting three boys, though Gibson eventually threw out a conviction involving a victim who recanted at trial. Maurizio was convicted of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places - also known as sexual tourism - money laundering and possessing child pornography.
Maurizio has maintained his innocence and his attorneys plan to file an appeal.