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  Priest Accused of Getting Child Porn

By Jay Tokasz, Dan Herbeck and Elmer Ploetz
Buffalo News
February 27, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo suspended a veteran priest Thursday after he was charged by federal authorities with receiving child pornography.

The Rev. Fred D. Ingalls, 56, was arrested after a search of the rectory at St. Joseph Parish in Varysburg, where investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they found a computer upstairs with about 100 images of child pornography.

Investigators were led to Ingalls when they matched his credit card number and e-mail address with a subscription to eight Web sites that contained child pornography, according to court papers.

The priest was in handcuffs and nonclerical attire as federal agents led him into the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio for an afternoon arraignment.

"These are serious charges," Foschio said.

"Yes, I know," said Ingalls, who was ordained a priest in 1974 and has served at several parishes in the Diocese of Buffalo.

Ingalls was appointed temporary administrator of St. Joseph Parish in November, as well as St. Cecilia Parish in Sheldon. Prior to that, he served since 1996 as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Alden.

His removal is the second in less than a year at St. Joseph, a rural parish of fewer than 200 families. Last summer, the diocese removed the former pastor, the Rev. Robert Wood, because of an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor more than 16 years ago.

Parishioners and others who know Ingalls were flabbergasted by the arrest.

"I'm numb. I had no clue," said Sue Rogacki. "This was the last news I expected to hear today. The last six months, we've had two priests removed for similar reasons."

Rogacki said she did not know Ingalls well, but "we went to church every week, shook hands. He seemed like a normal enough priest. I guess there isn't a normalcy."

Ann Wahl said she wanted to give Ingalls the benefit of the doubt and wondered if, somehow, someone else had put the pornography on the computer. "This is not a good thing for us, twice in a year," she said.

The diocese will find a priest or priests to fill this weekend's Masses at St. Joseph and St. Cecilia, said spokesman Kevin A. Keenan.

"The parishioners are hurting, so it's important we send out a priest who is skilled in dealing with people in crisis," he said.

Investigators allege that Ingalls paid for access to "members only" child pornography sites on 13 occasions between July 30, 2002, and June 25, 2003, when he was the pastor of St. John the Baptist in Alden.

The diocese had no knowledge of any problems with Ingalls prior to the arrest, Keenan said.

"There's never been a complaint against him regarding child pornography or sexual abuse," he said.

A criminal background check done Dec. 30, 2003, on Ingalls -- part of a new diocesewide program aimed at stamping out child sexual abuse -- turned up nothing, Keenan added.

Removal of Ingalls from ministry means that he cannot offer Mass, give sacraments or wear priestly garb, Keenan said.

At his arraignment, Ingalls, looking dejected, sat between defense attorneys Terrence M. Connors and Amy C. Martoche.

Connors said Ingalls was suspended with pay after the arrest, and would be living at a suburban residence for retired priests.

Foschio released Ingalls without bail but required him to stay away from computers and not have contact with any person younger than 18 without court-authorized supervision.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Littlefield said: "There are no allegations of molesting children in this case. . . . This is strictly a child pornography investigation at this time."

Under federal law, the charge is considered a crime of violence, Littlefield said, noting that children are being abused in "grotesque" ways when they are being photographed or videotaped. Minimum sentence upon conviction is five years in prison.

 
 

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