ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CN) – A former Catholic priest has been extradited from Morocco to the United States to face federal child sex abuse charges in New Mexico, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement Friday.
Eighty-year-old Arthur Perrault served as a priest under the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, which included work as a chaplain at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. According to the Albuquerque Journal, he fled the country in 1992, just days ahead of lawsuits accusing him of sexually abusing seven children while working as a priest in various churches and parishes.
In February 2017, a year after the FBI tracked Perrault to Morocco, Second Judicial District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd handed down a $16 million default judgment against him in favor of Kenneth Wolter. Wolter said Perrault sexually abused him at least 40 times while he served as an altar boy at St. Bernadette Parish, where Perrault was the pastor.
Moroccan law enforcement authorities arrested Perrault on Oct. 12, 2017 on a provisional arrest warrant based on the charges in the federal indictment, which was filed under seal on Sept. 21, 2017.
Exactly one year later, the four-page indictment was unsealed. It accuses Perrault of repeatedly sexually abusing an unnamed boy in 1991 and 1992 while on federally-protected land – Kirtland Air Force Base in Bernalillo County, N.M., and the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe County, N.M.
“The indictment alleges a profound breach of trust by an individual who was widely perceived as a mentor to young people and a respected figure in the community,” U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson for the District of New Mexico said in a statement. “Although the indictment charges acts allegedly committed many years ago, this indictment should make clear that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue justice for victims despite the passage of time or the many miles this defendant sought to put between himself and these alleged offenses.”
“The hope of so many survivors is that we are entering a new era of accountability and transparency,” attorney Levi Monagle of the Law Offices of Brad D. Hall said in a statement. “Our law enforcement agencies are arresting and indicting pedophile priests, and our State attorney general is investigating the cover-ups that allowed those priests to escape justice for decades. I applaud them.”
The Law Offices of Brad D. Hall, located in Albuquerque, claims to have represented over one hundred victims of abuse by Catholic clergy in New Mexico.
“It’s a good day for the good guys,” Monagle added. “Any steps towards more transparency and accountability anywhere, helps protect kids everywhere.”
Perrault was scheduled to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen today.
“Bringing Arthur Perrault back to New Mexico took a lot of patience and perseverance, but the FBI and our partners were determined to make sure he faced justice, no matter how long it took or how far we had to go to get him,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Langenberg said in a statement. “We also owed it to this victim. The FBI would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for their support during this long investigation, and also extend our gratitude to the Moroccan government and our staff in that country for helping make this day possible.”
If convicted of the aggregated sexual abuse charges in the indictment, Perrault could face life in prison.