NEW YORK (NY)
October 23 2020
By Blake Montgomery
At least one of the victims said he was afraid to report the alleged abuse because of the optics of a young drug addict making allegations against a respected priest.
An Ohio priest respected as a “religious and community leader” has been sex trafficking vulnerable minors and adults for more than two decades, the Department of Justice announced in an indictment unsealed Friday.
A grand jury has charged Rev. Michael J. Zacharias, age 53, with sex trafficking minors and sex trafficking both minors and adults by force, 10 counts in all. Federal authorities arrested Zacharias on August 18 and have kept him in custody since. He taught at St. Michael’s Parish in Findlay, Ohio.
“Michael Zacharias used his respected position to prey on and take advantage of youth and adults for his own sexual gratification,” said Brian Russ, the FBI special agent in charge of the investigation.
One victim, whose identity was not disclosed, said Zacharias began grooming him while still a seminarian in 1999, according to court documents. The victim was then 12, still in the sixth grade, and Zacharias allegedly abused him throughout his teen and adult years. Zacharias allegedly paid the victim for oral sex, and the victim returned to the priest many times to feed a dependency on painkillers. The victim said his drug addiction stemmed in part from feelings of self-loathing and questions about his sexuality brought on by the abuse he suffered at Zacharias’ hands.
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