SAN SALVADOR – A Spanish priest was arrested in El Salvador and charged with allegedly smuggling banned items to gang members behind bars, the police said Wednesday.
The Rev. Antonio Rodriguez was taken into custody Tuesday night “for the crime of introducing illicit items into (prisons),” national police director Mauricio Ramirez told the media.
Rodriguez, popularly known as “Father Tońo,” is also accused of influence-peddling, the police force said on Twitter.
The head of the eastern division of the Attorney General’s Office, Gerardo Arriaza, said at a press conference that Rodriguez “is a member, collaborating actively with Gang 18,” and the investigation found that he brought “cell phones and other (things)” into several prisons and passed them to inmates.
Salvadoran Attorney General Luis Martinez said that the AG’s Office has “three proven cases ... of introduction of illicit items” into prisons, mainly Izalco prison in Sonsonate province and Cojutepeque prison in Cuscatlan province, by Rodriguez.
He is the parish priest of Mejicanos, a municipality near San Salvador, where for years he has headed a program to rehabilitate gangmembers.
Ramirez said that among the 127 people in the sweep are also at least 12 police officers, two prosecutors, three court employees and several attorneys.
The operation was carried out in San Salvador and five other provinces in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office.
He said that the other people arrested in the extensive operation belong to “several (criminal) structures” linked to crimes such as murder, robbery, extortion, theft and drug trafficking, among others.