Records Paint Zacharias As Priest and Predator
By Lou Wilin
August 19, 2020
He preached, ministered communion, heard confessions and won the trust of hundreds. He also manipulated and coerced drug-addicted boys and men into sex, and spoke in code of oral sex, body parts and semen, records filed in U.S. District Court, in Cleveland, allege.
At his own behest, the Rev. Michael Zacharias had a “confession video” taken in 2015 depicting himself performing oral sex on one of his victims, then an adult, according to court records.
At one point, Zacharias, in clergy attire, looks into the camera, and according to court records, states: “My name is Michael Zacharias. I first met (Victim #1) when he was in sixth grade at St. Catherine’s and I was a Seminarian. I knew from the first time I saw him that I wanted to suck his ----. I always loved (Victim #1),” Zacharias said. “I got to know him over the years. I knew that he was, that his dad was out of the picture, and I started grooming him. I knew someday I wanted to suck his ----. I remember seeing him in the hospital, he had meningitis. I remember it was the two of us alone in the room. And I remember the back of his hospital gown opened up and I saw his a--. I wanted that sweet little a-- right then. I remember rubbing his back. I remember thinking, I gotta suck his ---- sometime. So I kept going over to his house and I got to know him over the years.”
Victim #1 a month ago was found to be in possession of fentanyl after an investigation by the FBI. Agents seized his three cellphones. Text messages on one phone included those of a sexual nature with a contact, “FrZ.” Approached about it by the FBI, Victim 1 said Zacharias had molested and raped him as a child, though he had never reported it to police, court records state. Zacharias paid Victim 1 in exchange for being able to perform oral sex on him, court records allege.
“With a physically abusive and largely absent father, Victim 1 viewed Zacharias as a father figure,” an FBI special agent said in an affidavit for the court. “Over the years, and into junior high and high school, Zacharias spent time with Victim 1, came over to his house, gave him money, and showed him affection, including inappropriate touching as well as inappropriate sexual comments.”
The nightmare started about 20 years ago for Victim 1, according to court records. Last month, Zacharias repeatedly warned Victim 1 that if anyone ever found out about their sexual activity, Victim 1 would be “splashed across the news, portrayed as a ‘kid with a drug problem’ and lose his source of income,” court records allege. “Zacharias advised that it would only take one cop to tell the Bishops and he would never be able to give Victim 1 money again, everyone would know Victim 1’s face, and the parish would be ruined.”
Court records also cite a Victim 2. He also was “too scared to report what Zacharias did to him, because he felt like no one would believe him — a young troubled drug-addict, whether as a minor or adult — over Zacharias, a respected Catholic priest,” court records allege.