Former Catholic Priest Arrested in Mobile on Florida Porn Charges

Associated Press State & Local Wire
June 23, 2005

A former Roman Catholic priest on federal probation for dealing drugs from his Florida Panhandle rectory and his Bourbon Street condominium in New Orleans has been arrested here on Internet child pornography charges, the FBI said Thursday.

Thomas Anthony Crandall, 50, was arrested at his apartment Wednesday on a state warrant from Florida's Gulf County, where he once served as a pastor, FBI spokesman Craig Dahle said.

Agents searched his apartment for materials depicting child pornography and seized an undetermined number of items.

Crandall was taken to Mobile County Jail, where he awaited extradition. He had been pastor of a Milton, Fla., parish for three years when he was arrested Jan. 12, 2002 on the drug charges. He was pulled over en route from New Orleans to Milton.

The native of Jersey City, N.J., was sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and Ecstacy.

Before his Milton assignment, Crandall had been pastor of St. Joseph's Church at Port St. Joe, Fla., in Gulf County.

A sworn statement by Gulf County sheriff's investigator Chris Buchanan says Crandall was located through e-mail messages and images he had sent during an undercover investigation of an Internet chat room. Buchanan posed as a 15-year-old boy, according to the statement.

Beginning in March, Buchanan received sexually explicit messages from someone using the screen name, FEDCON1221, which was tracked to Crandall.

In the messages, Crandall wrote that he had porn videos involving straight, bisexual and homosexual activity and offered copies, according to Buchanan's statement. He also discussed meeting his e-mail contact.

Crandall is on federal supervised release in Mobile, where he has lived for about a year. As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, Crandall also agreed to repay $83,225 missing from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Milton.

State prosecutors dropped theft charges because they were afraid pursing them would impede restitution.

Port St. Joe parishioners said Crandall never hid parts of a double life that included expensive vacations, travel to University of Notre Dame football games, the New Orleans condo and membership there in a gay Mardi Gras crew.

He even posted pictures of himself in his Mardi Gras costume of white tights and feathers on the church bulletin board and once shocked Port St. Joe by wearing it for a parade there, parishoners said.

Pensacola lawyer Roy Kinsey, who represented Crandall on the drug charges, said he no longer is a client.


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