Defrocked N.J. priest convicted of molesting boys reportedly teaching children in Dominican Republic
By Sophie Nieto-Munoz
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
March 22, 2019
|Hadmels DeFrais, a defrocked N.J. priest convicted of molesting two boys in Elizabeth, has resurfaced in the Dominican Republic, where NBC News reports he is teaching children.|
A former New Jersey priest convicted of molesting two boys in 2004 and is now teaching children at a school in the resort town of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, according to a report.
Hadmels DeFrias, 47, is teaching English at the Colegio del Caribe in Punta Cana, according to NBC News. He told the reporter who tracked him down he is no longer a threat to minors, and “doesn’t see the children with those eyes anymore.”
DeFrias, a native of the Dominican Republic, worked as a priest at the St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Elizabeth. While assigned to the New Jersey church, he was accused of fondling two brothers in 2001 and 2002. The boys, both less than 14 years old, did part-time clerical work with the church.
He was charged with criminal sexual contact and pleaded guilty in August 2004. DeFrias was sentenced to three years of probation and was barred indefinitely from future contact with minors in New Jersey. He was laicized from the church shortly after.
DeFrias did not respond to messages on Facebook or Twitter, and a call to the Punta Cana school went unanswered on Friday.
According to his LinkedIn profile, DeFrias is a priest of the Progressive Celtic Church, which he claims is within the Anglican tradition of churches. It also says he has been working at the Colegio del Caribe since February 2018 and teaches to “all grades from primary school to high school.”
DeFrias’ name was included on a list released by the Archdiocese of Newark of 188 New Jersey priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. He claimed he was unaware his name was posted, but said it was good for the church to be honest, according to an interview he gave to NBC News.
The Archdiocese of Newark told NJ Advance Media they were unaware of his whereabouts.
“Fr. Hadmels DeFrias was permanently removed from ministry and all ties with the Archdiocese of Newark were permanently severed when he was laicized by the Vatican at our request,” the Archdiocese said in a statement. “We’ve had no contact or involvement with any of his actions since he became a private citizen.”
In an interview outside the school with NBC, DeFrias expressed regret for molesting the brothers, and explained he was diagnosed with ephebophilia, a sexual attraction to adolescents. He claimed he gave into temptation due to depression and not having proper sexual education, including the ability to manage abstinence, NBC reported.
DeFrias told NBC he informed school officials about his criminal past before he was hired, even though he said he didn’t have to because he was never convicted of a crime in the Dominican Republic. The defrocked priest also said he has a teaching assistant in the classroom so he’s never alone with the children, and the classroom has no doors.
Mark Crawford, a spokesman for the N.J. chapter of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said he was disturbed to hear the news, but not shocked.
“It’s a problem that these guys go on their way and here they are working with children in a third-world country where kids are really vulnerable. It’s frightening,” he said. “SNAP feels the church has a greater obligation to ensure that these men are not at large.”
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed DeFrias is the same person prosecuted nearly two decades ago.
“It is deeply concerning to hear that a defendant prosecuted, convicted and sentenced here for criminal sexual contact with children has resurfaced overseas, apparently with supervisory capacity over children,” the Union County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. “We would urge anyone in any jurisdiction to be vigilant and immediately report allegations of such conduct to local authorities.”
After the church cut ties with DeFrias, he worked as a marriage minister in Florida, a telemarketer and owned an auto body shop from 2003 to 2010. He earned a religious studies degree and a master of divinity in theological Studies from Seton Hall University in the 1990s.
DeFrias joined the priesthood in 1999. He left the ministry after the allegation was made, and had moved to Maryland. It is unknown when he returned to the Dominican Republic.