Connecticut Priest Arrested in Sex Sting

By Jim Fitzgerald
Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 25, 2001

A priest who is the spiritual director for 425 students at a Catholic high school in Connecticut was arrested for engaging in sexually explicit online conversations with someone he believed was a 14-year-old boy, the Westchester County district attorney said Friday.

The Rev. John J. Castaldo, 42, was caught in an ongoing Internet sex sting, which has resulted in 42 arrests and 35 convictions.

"At this point nothing surprises us," said District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, whose office runs the sting operation. "It's very disconcerting that an individual would be in this occupation and do this kind of work, but not surprising at all."

Castaldo is spiritual director for the 425 students at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. The school, which charges $5,800 a year for tuition, referred questions to the office of the Bridgeport Diocese. A spokesman there, Joe McAleer, said he could not comment immediately and did not return calls later.

The school's Web site includes a photo of Castaldo standing next to Cardinal Edward Egan, now the archbishop of New York, who was formerly bishop of Bridgeport. Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the cardinal, said Egan was in Rome and was unaware of the arrest. Zwilling said he did not know if Castaldo was a friend of Egan.

Pirro said that in online conversations during April and May, Castaldo said he was a gym teacher, gave out his phone number and described the explicit sexual activity he wanted to engage in to an undercover agent posing as a 14-year-old boy.

He was charged with trying to send indecent material to a minor, which is punishable by up to four years in prison. Castaldo was arrested and arraigned Thursday and released without bail. As of Friday morning, no lawyer had been listed as representing him. Castaldo did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.

Six other educators have been arrested in the ongoing sting. On May 17, Christopher Prato, 25, a teacher at the private 100-acre Harvey School, in Katonah, was arrested after he appeared in a Westchester park for what he thought would be a meeting with a boy, Pirro said. Pirro said Castaldo, too, had indicated he wanted to meet with the "boy."

According to Marianne Walsh, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, people living throughout the Northeast have been arrested in connection with the sting. The defendants are prosecuted in Westchester because the undercover investigator is stationed in Westchester, making the county the scene of the alleged crime.

Pirro called Castaldo's arrest "a wakeup call for parents."

"It matters not what a person's title is or what their position is," she said. "Our children have to be aware of the fact that they are in danger sometimes when they are communicating with individuals on the Internet that they don't know."


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