Former South Carolina priest sentenced to 21 years in prison over child sex abuse

Gavel, court Credit: Chodyra Mike 1/Shutterstock.

A former South Carolina priest will serve more than two decades behind bars after pleading guilty to child sex crimes, the federal government has announced. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina said in a press release that 69-year-old Jamie Adolfo Gonzalez-Farias “was sentenced to more than 21 years in federal prison” following his conviction for “transportation of a minor with intent to engage in illegal sexual acts.”

The clergyman was arrested in January of last year on the charges and entered a guilty plea in response to them. He had been visiting the Diocese of Charleston in South Carolina from the Diocese of San José de Melipilla in Chile. 

The U.S. attorney’s office said in the Friday announcement that Gonzalez-Farias “met the minor victim, an 11-year-old boy, and his family through his position as a priest.” He “began giving high levels of attention to the child,” including the gift of a cellphone, which the priest used to communicate with the victim.

In 2020 the clergyman took the victim to Florida under the pretenses of a beach vacation, where he subsequently sexually abused the young boy and attempted to sexually assault him. The priest also sent the victim messages that were “inappropriate, crossed appropriate boundaries, and were consistent with the minor victim’s disclosure of abuse,” the attorney’s office said. 

The priest was arrested in November 2022 at Miami International Airport.

U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis “sentenced Gonzalez-Farias to 262 months imprisonment, followed by a lifetime of supervised release,” the attorney’s office said in its announcement. Gonzalez-Farias is also required to register as a sex offender and pay the victim restitution.

The Diocese of Charleston said in a statement earlier last year that it “was made aware of [the allegation] in December 2020,” after the priest “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 last year, with no indication of any criminal activity in his record.

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