Upon his conviction in May, he faced a minimum of 15 years in prison. The U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release on Friday that the priest received a life sentence for the crimes.
Luis Quesada, an assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in the release that Zacharias “met his victims when they were as young as 5 and began exploiting them for commercial sex acts and enabling their resulting opioid addictions.”
The release said the priest met the victims “when they were minor parochial school students through his affiliation with their school.”
Zacharias “exploit[ed] his victims over extended periods as they developed opioid addictions and criminal records,” the release said. The priest later reportedly “manipulated the victims’ fears of opioid withdrawal and homelessness” to abuse them further.
“Michael Zacharias used his position as a trusted spiritual leader and role model for young boys and their families to exploit them in the most insidious ways, coercing his victims from childhood and beyond to engage in commercial sex with him,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in the press release.
“This sentence sends a very clear message that those who abuse their positions of power and authority to sexually assault and exploit children will be held accountable,” she continued.