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Halfway House Counselor Called a Predator

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - Two former residents of a halfway house claim in court that a former counselor extorted one woman and sexually harassed both of them, and others.

Lead plaintiff Carolynne Tilga claims defendant Will J. Prater "harassed, accosted and extorted her," tried to involve her in a money laundering scheme, and that his escalating sexual predations culminated in a sexual assault in a bathroom.

Tilga and Adella Abeita sued the United States, Dismas Charities Inc. dba Diersen Charities Albuquerque and Prater, in Federal Court.

Tilga, who was incarcerated for conspiring to defraud the United States, served a portion of her sentence in prison and was transferred to the custody of a halfway house run by Dismas Charities, known as Dierson Charities Albuquerque.

There she was placed under the authority of Will Prater. She claims that within one week of her transfer, Prater approached her and asked her to launder $50,000 for him.

She claims that Prater said "he had read her presentence report and knew she was rich."

He pressed her for loans ranging from $200 to $50,000 while engaging in an extended campaign of sexually suggestive comments and harassment, claiming to be in love with her and that she should love him, Tilga says in the 22-page complaint.

She claims that Prater lingered in the woman's dorms in the evenings, lingered in the woman's bathing areas and, on more than one occasion, pulled open the curtains in women's showers while the showers were occupied.

During one such invasion of privacy, she says, Prater manhandled and sexually touched her. Finally, she claims, he cornered her in a bathroom and assaulted her.

"Prater followed Ms. Tilga into the women's bathroom. He grabbed her arm and pinned her body against the wall. At that time, defendant Prater demanded a kiss. He proceeded to grab her breasts and then shove his hand down Ms. Tilga's pants. After defendant Prater shoved his hand down Ms. Tilga's pants, he forcefully grabbed her vagina and forced his fingers into her vagina. While defendant Prater was digitally penetrating Ms. Tilga, he told her that he wanted to stick his big penis inside of her," the lawsuit states.

The second plaintiff, Abeita, incarcerated for conspiracy to unlawfully obtain a controlled substance, also complains of Prater's escalating inappropriate behavior toward female residents, and says she was subject to his peeping, inappropriate touches, lingering bed and bathroom checks and sexual harassment while showering.

They each seek punitive damages of $3 million for negligence, intentional torts, violations of civil rights and the Constitution, including cruel and unusual punishment, and other charges, including the United States negligently giving the contract to Dismas.

They are represented by Erlinda Johnson and Monnica Garcia.

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