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  Priest Sentenced in Online Sex Case
Delray Cleric Gets 51 Months for Trying to Solicit Minor

By Jon Burstein
Sun-Sentinel
April 8, 2003

He spent hours online pretending to be a "youngish looking" social worker, bragging to a 14-year-old boy about previous sexual encounters with teenagers.

The Rev. Elias Guimaraes used the cloak of that false identity to send message after message describing graphic sex acts with underage boys, all the while as he sat in his room in a suburban Delray Beach church rectory. The 43-year-old Roman Catholic priest never imagined his prey also was lying about who he really was.

Busted by an undercover Delray Beach police detective posing as a teenager on the Internet, Guimaraes was sentenced Monday to 51 months in federal prison. The former associate pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission pleaded guilty in January to attempting to solicit sex from a minor.

Guimaraes faces deportation to his native Brazil once he's released from prison.

Standing before about 15 parishioners gathered in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom, a gaunt Guimaraes offered a brief apology. U.S. District Judge William Zloch gave him the maximum prison term under federal sentencing guidelines.

"Of course it was a mistake on my part, and I'm very sorry," said Guimaraes through a Portuguese interpreter. "I regret it very much."

Zloch called the case "a very sad commentary on our society."

Guimaraes was ordained in 1993 and came to the Palm Beach Diocese in March 2001. He worked at Out Lady Queen of Apostles in Royal Palm Beach before moving to the church west of Delray Beach that serves more than 2,000 families.

There, Guimaraes quickly became a fixture in the area's growing Brazilian community, performing services in Portuguese as well as in Spanish and English.

He first approached Delray Beach police Detective John Young on Aug. 30, when the officer logged into a chat room as a 14-year-old. Over the next 10 days, Guimaraes sent 21 sexually graphic messages, boasting in some about having sexual encounters with a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old.

Guimaraes lied about his age, saying at times he was 28 years old and other times saying he was 32, said U.S. Attorney Lothrop Morris. Guimaraes wrote Young he had his first sexual encounter when he was 15 with a 25-year-old man.

"He also said he met a lot of hot boys at his job as a social worker," Morris said.

The priest was arrested Sept. 9 when he went a beachfront location to meet his Internet friend. Police said that Guimaraes initially struggled when they tried to arrest him, but stopped when police threatened him with a Taser stun gun.

While Guimaraes bragged about having sexual relationships with teenagers, state and federal authorities never found any evidence he had inappropriate contact with children. Besides his messages to Young, his laptop computer had two other sexually explicit outgoing correspondences, both sent to adults.

Eugene Garrett, Guimaraes' attorney, said the priest's behavior during the sting "was an aberration in an otherwise fine life."

Our Lady Queen of Peace Mission's head priest Matthew Didone told Zloch he had always found Guimaraes to be "a very correct person, very dedicated to his work."

"I still think it was not his behavior to do this," Didone said. "I think it was a mistake he made out of curiosity."

Zloch interrupted, saying, "You realize what you call a curiosity has become a curse on the Catholic Church."

Didone responded he wasn't trying to excuse Guimaraes' behavior. After the sentencing, he said he has talked to Guimaraes many times since his arrest and he thinks the priest is truly remorseful.

"It's brought the community together, and we've gone through the process of forgiveness," Didone said. "There is no saint without a past, and there is no sinner without a future."

Sam Barbaro, a spokesman for the Diocese of Palm Beach, said Guimaraes will never be allowed to serve as a priest in the diocese again.

"It's sad it had to happen, and we're relieved the matter is over," Barbaro said.

 
 

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