Local Priest on Leave in Online Child Sex Inquiry
Feds, Police Raid Offices of Church
By Joe Hughes
San Diego Union-Tribune
May 13, 2004
The pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Loma Portal has taken a leave of absence after federal and local authorities served a search warrant May 6 at church offices as part of an investigation into sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, authorities said.
Father Gary Holtey announced his leave after agents from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and San Diego police served the warrant and seized computers and files from the parish office.
There have been no arrests and no charges filed, but the investigation is ongoing, said San Diego police Sgt. David Jones, who supervises the department's task force on Internet crimes against children. The search warrant remains sealed.
Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, said in a statement that both the diocese and the parish are cooperating with investigators. He said Holtey had voluntarily accepted the leave.
The diocese later held an afternoon news conference at the Pastoral Center, but shed little light on the situation. "We know very little," Valdivia said.
The chancellor confirmed that the pornographic material that authorities were searching for includes images of minors, adding, "This was a total surprise to us."
There's no indication that anyone at the St. Charles Borromeo Parish or academy had been harmed, Valdivia said, adding that the priest did not have a role at the school.
School and church functions will continue.
Holtey has left the Loma Portal parish residence and is at an undisclosed location, Valdivia said. He has reportedly retained legal counsel but could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Holtey has been at St. Charles Borromeo Parish on Cadiz Street about three years, and came from Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley.
Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agents involved are members of the task force on Internet crimes against children, but would not further explain the investigation or its targets.
Sources with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., said agents were looking at the seized computers for evidence of child pornography. Those sources also said the probe involved about 30 people in San Diego.
Parish officials said the search warrant did not target the church school, school staff or students.
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