Mahony Accuser Held in Stockton
He is charged with extortion in alleging molestation by the L.A. cardinal

By Andrew Blankenstein
Los Angeles Times
September 5, 2002

A man who accused Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of molesting him two decades ago has been charged with extortion of the Catholic Church, filing a false police report and other crimes, authorities said Wednesday.

Loren Mitchell Saffels, 34, told Stockton police in June that he had been molested in 1982 by Mahony, who was bishop of Stockton, and a local priest.

In a separate case, Fresno police in April dismissed as unsubstantiated a woman's allegations of personal misconduct against Mahony.

After a three-month investigation by Stockton police, prosecutors decided to charge Saffels, who was described in an arrest warrant as a con artist with a criminal history of fraud, theft and impersonating a police officer.

"I'm very pleased that we were able to apprehend this suspect," said San Joaquin County Dist. Atty. John D. Phillips. "There are legitimate victims of this type of crime, and this makes it more difficult and burdensome for people that may have a legitimate case."

Saffels had presented officials of the Stockton Diocese on May 31 with a journal that he said detailed the alleged misconduct. He demanded $1 million for "past, present and future" damages and a written apology, according to a sworn statement filed with the request for a warrant for Saffels' arrest.

Tod Tamberg, a Mahony spokesman, said the cardinal was pleased. Tamberg said Mahony, head of the nation's largest Roman Catholic diocese, had maintained that the charges were baseless. "As I said before, it was a false allegation," Tamberg said. "We are pleased that the Stockton Police Department has followed up on this matter."

Saffels, who was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail, appeared briefly in San Joaquin County Superior Court to plead not guilty to the charges, which included embezzlement, grand theft from an employer not connected with the church and passing worthless checks.

The case became public in June, when the Los Angeles Archdiocese issued a news release announcing Saffels' allegations and the cardinal's denial.

Saffels told Stockton police that he was first victimized in 1982, when he was 13 and doing part-time work at two Stockton churches, according to a sworn statement filed in the criminal case by Stockton Police Det. Grant Bedford.

San Joaquin County prosecutors said they had doubts about his story from the beginning.

From interviews and a criminal background check, they determined that Saffels was a con artist who had left a trail of fraud and theft victims in Hawaii and Oregon in the last three years, according to the affidavit.

Saffels also is wanted in Illinois on suspicion of impersonating a police officer, the document said.

Police interviewed the defendant's father, who said that neither he nor his son was Catholic, and that his son had no Catholic orientation.

Saffels' allegations against a parish priest, Father Oliver O'Grady, also were dismissed by police.

"[Saffels' father] considers his son to be a con artist, and he could not think of any connection between Father O'Grady, the church or his son," according to the affidavit.

Earlier this year, a Fresno woman with a history of mental illness claimed that Mahony molested her 32 years ago. The cardinal, who denied the allegations, was cleared by police within a month.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.