Priest pleads guilty to federal child sex exploitation charges

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A Catholic priest pleaded guilty this week to charges of child sex exploitation related to the transport of a minor from South Carolina to Florida several years ago. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina said in a press release Thursday that 68-year-old Jamie Adolfo Gonzalez-Farias had entered a guilty plea on charges of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Gonzalez-Farias admitted to having “transported a minor victim from South Carolina to Florida with the intent to commit lewd and lascivious exhibition and lewd and lascivious molestation,” the attorney’s office said. 

The clergyman had been arrested in January of this year on the charges. He had been visiting the Diocese of Charleston from the Diocese of San José de Melipilla in Chile. 

A federal indictment at the time accused him of “us[ing] a facility and means of interstate and foreign commerce” to “persuade, induce, entice, and coerce” an 11-year-old victim “to engage in sexual activity.”

Investigators reportedly recovered text messages and WhatsApp communications from the priest to the victim that were “consistent with the victim’s disclosures.”

The priest reportedly admitted to investigators that he “showered with the victim, that he touched the minor victim’s genitals, and that he showed the minor victim pornography.”

The Charleston Diocese had previously listed Gonzales-Farias as a priest with a credible allegation of child sexual abuse. 

The diocese said in a statement earlier this year that it “was made aware of an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor involving visiting priest Father Jaime Gonzalez-Farias in December 2020, after he had left the country for his home in Chile.” Church officials reported the matter to the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, which eventually informed the FBI of the crimes. 

The priest had been subject to multiple background checks prior to the allegations, the diocese said earlier this year, with no indication of any criminal activity in his record.

The diocese did not immediately return a request for comment on the guilty plea Friday morning. 

Gonzalez-Farias will be sentenced at a later date per the recommendations of the U.S. Probation Office. He faces up to life in prison for his crimes as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines; he also must register as a sex offender.

The FBI said it was still seeking information about any other potential victims of Gonzalez-Farias. 

The priest was ordained in 1990 and has held roles as a pastor, parochial vicar, administrator, and chaplain.

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