Priest under Investigation Has Local Ties

By Thomas Dimopoulos
The Post-Star
January 9, 2008

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A 65-year-old priest who acknowledged his "inappropriate behavior" after allegations of sexual abuse were reported to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn could be under investigation by State Police in Wilton for similar behavior that may have occurred at his summer camp in the town of Greenfield last year.

Monsignor George F. Zatarga was placed on administrative leave from his role as pastor of American Martyrs parish in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens, according to the diocese.

In a letter read at church services in early December, parishioners were told of the allegations placed on the diocese's telephone reporting line and that Zatarga agreed to undergo counseling and treatment.

The information was forwarded to the District Attorney's Office of Kings County, according to the diocese.

On Sunday, The Daily News reported that at least five men told the diocese that Zatarga molested them as teenagers, with the most recent allegations occurring in 2007, when Zatarga took an 18-year-old man to his home "outside upstate Saratoga Springs."

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy said he was contacted by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hines in late December about a potential link to this area in the case.

"Charles Hines called me the week between Christmas and New Year's and advised me he had an investigation going on in Brooklyn regarding Monsignor Zatarga, and that there may be a need for an investigation into allegations in Saratoga County," said Murphy on Tuesday afternoon.

A file on the case was received by the county district attorney's office Monday and was referred to the State Police, Murphy said. A call to State Police investigators was not immediately returned.

"The Brooklyn District Attorney and I have discussed it. It's a very serious matter, and we're determining whether or not there is a criminal charge in this county," said Murphy, who would not comment further on the allegations.

The town of Greenfield assessor's office confirmed on Tuesday that George F. Zatarga owns two adjacent properties along a rural stretch of Ormsby Road in Porter Corners, which includes a seasonal camp on the grounds. Tax bills for the properties, six miles north of Saratoga Springs, are forwarded to a Bayside (Queens) address belonging to Zatarga.

Land records indicate Zatarga purchased one property with five acres and a camp in 1985 and the approximately 2-1/2 adjoining acres in 1992. A 2007 tax map for the town of Greenfield established the value of the two properties and camp at approximately $139,000.

Zatarga was ordained in l968 and became the pastor of American Martyrs in Bayside in 2005, after serving nearly four decades in the priesthood at a number of parishes in Brooklyn and Queens.

A spokesman for District Attorney Hines' office said on Tuesday there is no record of Zatarga being charged with any crime at present. The District Attorney's office in Queens County replied similarly.

The telephone at Zatarga's home in Bayside is currently out of service.

It is unknown whether any of the allegations reported in New York City involve incidents within the statute of limitations.

Only the recent incident in Saratoga County involving the now-19-year-old man is current enough to bring charges, according to


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