Va. Man Says He Was Sexually Abused by Priest Growing up in Northern Panhandle
By Chris Dickerson
West Virginia Record
May 15, 2020
NEW CUMBERLAND – A Virginia man says a priest with a history of such offenses sexually assaulted him when he was an altar boy growing up in the Northern Panhandle.
Michael Pirraglia of Fairfax, Va., filed his complaint May 15 in Hancock Circuit Court against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
Pirraglia says his family attended St. Paul Catholic Church in Weirton when he was growing up. One of the priests assigned to the church then was Rev. Victor Frobas.
Frobas worked for the Diocese from 1965 to 1983. Before that, Frobas worked for the Diocese of Philadelphia, where there were multiple claims alleging Frobas abused minors.
“At no time did the diocese warn or notify the parishes where Frobas worked of his history as a serial sexual abuser,” the complaint states, noting that Frobas had access to minor children including Pirraglia when he was at St. Paul’s. Pirraglia says Frobas sexually abused him.
In the complaint, Pirraglia says Frobas began sexually abusing him when he was 10 years old in 1980 and that it continued for almost three years until Frobas left the parish in 1983. He said it occurred at multiple locations, including Diocesan properties and a ballfield in nearby Paris, Pennsylvania.
In 2018, the Diocese released the names of clergy who had been accused of sexual abuse of minors. Frobas’ name was on the list.
“When the plaintiff first read this list in November of 2018, he discovered the Diocese knew that Frobas was a pedophile and yet they continued to employ him as a priest,” the complaint states. “Not only did the Diocese continue to employ Frobas, a pedophile priest, the Diocese moved him from parish to parish giving Frobas new and different children to sexually abuse.
“Instead of protecting its children, the Diocese made them prey for a pedophile.”
Pirraglia says the list proves the Diocese continued to employ priests even after receiving credible reports of sexual abuse of minors.
“Prior to this list being published, Mr. Pirraglia believed only he and Frobas knew about the sexual assaults,” the complaint states. “This list proves that the Diocese also knew all along.”
Pirraglia says the Diocese knew of Frobas’ background as well as credible allegations against him. Yet, he still was allowed to come to West Virginia and was “moved frequently due to suspicions of and sometimes allegations of sexual abuse if children.”
Pirraglia accuses the Diocese of vicarious liability, civil conspiracy, fraudulent concealment, sexual assault and harassment on Diocesan property and at Diocesan events as well as negligent retention, hiring and supervision.
Pirraglia says he suffered significant physical, psychological and personal injury as well as shame, embarrassment, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, past and future enjoyment of life as well as other harms and damages. He seeks compensatory damages, attorney fees, court costs and other relief.
According to published reports, Frobas was sent to his home Diocese in St. Louis in 1983 for “treatment.” He pleaded guilty in 1988 of molesting two teenage boys at a church in Kirkwood, Missouri. He served 25 months of a four-year sentence for those charges. He was indicted on similar charges for in the 1970s in Massachusetts, but he died of cancer and diabetes in 1993 before that trial. Frobas was sued once in Massachusetts and twice previously in West Virginia in 1993 and 1994.
Pirraglia is being represented by Teresa Toriseva and Joshua Miller of Toriseva Law in Wheeling. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David Sims.
Hancock Circuit Court case number 20-C-40