SAN JUAN – A Catholic priest was arrested Tuesday by FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for crimes of sexual trafficking and pedophilia, Puerto Rican government spokesman Miguel Pereira told Efe.
The Rev. Israel Berrios Berrios, 58, was arrested at his residence in Naranjito, a village in the central part of this U.S. commonwealth.
Berrios, who in the photo of his Facebook profile appears taking the hand of the late Pope John Paul II, had been relieved of his duties by the diocese of Caguas, a city neighboring San Juan, while he was being investigated.
This was the first arrest of a priest by U.S. federal authorities in Puerto Rico, with local authorities expected to confirm the charge, which would make Berrios the second priest charged with sex crimes on the island.
The first priest to be accused by Puerto Rican authorities is the former president of the Ecclesiastical Court of Arecibo Diocese, the Rev. Edwin Mercado Viera, scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing on May 30.
Berrios, who could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty, previously worked in the parishes of San Jose in Aibonito and San Andres Apostol in Barranquitas, both in central Puerto Rico.