Accused priest had been blackmail victim


May 30, 2018

By Matt Saxton

Bridgeport – A retired priest who lost his ministry privileges late last week and previously was the victim of a blackmail scheme also is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Msgr. Mark Froehlich, 75, of Belmont, is facing a Belmont County Sheriff’s Office inquiry into an allegation that the retired Roman Catholic priest sexually abused a minor several years ago. Chief Deputy James Zusack said Tuesday that detective Doug Cruse was leading the investigation but also said he could not make any additional comments because the case is still open.

Church officials also said Tuesday they were aware of that investigation when Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey M. Monforton relieved Froehlich of active ministry duties. The current priests of several churches where Froehlich had once served as a priest read statements to their parishioners during Saturday and Sunday Masses. Although Froehlich retired in 2014, he was still helping with Masses, confessions and church functions in Belmont County.

“We do our (investigation), they will do theirs,” said diocese spokesman Dino Orsatti. “We will work together from there.”

Froehlich has faced a sexual misconduct allegation in the past. Two people served prison time for extorting money from Froehlich when they said they would accuse him of sexual abuse if he didn’t pay.

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