Former Priest Who Sexually Abused a Hampton Bays Girl Found in Guatemala
By Erin McKinley
April 24, 2017
A former priest who fled the country three years ago—after being accused of sexually abusing a 6-year-old Hampton Bays girl and giving her a sexually transmitted disease—was arrested on Saturday after being extradited to the United States from Guatemala, according to police.
Augusto Cortez, 53, was arrested by Southampton Town Police at John F. Kennedy Airport on April 22 after being located by Interpol officials in Guatemala and extradited to America with the assistance of the U.S. Marshal’s and the Suffolk County district attorney’s offices, authorities said. They noted that he fled the country shortly after the incident in June 2014, after he was questioned by Southampton Town Police once the victim’s parents filed a complaint. Authorities said he fled to South America after realizing he was the target of a police investigation, and has lived in several different countries to avoid arrest.
It was not immediately clear how authorities located Mr. Cortez.
Mr. Cortez was charged with one count each of first-degree sexual abuse of a child and first-degree criminal sexual act, both felonies, as well as endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, according to police.
According to a lawsuit filed in November 2015 by the parents of the young girl, who is not being identified by The Press due to her age and the nature of the crime, Mr. Cortez first met the victim’s family when he was serving in the Vincentian Congregation based at St. Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays. He served at that parish until moving to the St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn in 2005.
The suit notes that Mr. Cortez, who gave the Hampton Bays girl an incurable STD, visited the victim’s family in June 2014. The girl’s mother later told police that she saw Mr. Cortez adjusting his pants after exiting a room in which he was alone with her daughter. Mr. Cortez was questioned by Town Police detectives but was later released due to a lack of evidence, investigators said at the time. Police learned after he had fled the country that the girl had contracted genital herpes.
Mr. Cortez’s latest run-in was not his first with law enforcement. In 2008, Mr. Cortez was arrested in Brooklyn after police said he fondled the breasts of a 12-year-old female student at St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish School when the two were alone in a computer room. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of forcibly touching the young student and defrocked of being a priest though permitted to remain with the Vincentian Order, according to authorities. As part of his release, Mr. Cortez was not supposed to go near children and required to classify as a Level 1 sex offender.
The Hampton Bays victim’s family members contacted the Vincentian Order to ask if it was safe to allow Mr. Cortez to say in their home and, according to their lawsuit, were told on multiple occasions that the 2008 charges were an “accident” and that the former priest did not pose a threat to them.