MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine immigration authorities say they have arrested an American Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in a remote central town in a case one official described as "shocking and appalling."
Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Thursday the Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, who has been indicted in Ohio for alleged illicit sexual conduct in the Philippines, was arrested in a church in Naval town on the island province of Biliran.
An Ohio court had issued a warrant for the arrest of 77-year-old Hendricks, who has been living in the Philippines for 37 years, Sandoval said, adding that the U.S. criminal case stemmed from complaints from Filipino minors who were allegedly victimized in the Philippines.
In court documents that were unsealed Thursday, victims graphically described how they said Hendricks abused them repeatedly for years. One of the victims was just 7 years old when the abuse began, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.
Hendricks is listed on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati website as a missionary in Asia. Steve Francis with Homeland Security Investigations said Hendricks has been active in the church for more than 60 years and was assigned to several locations in the Cincinnati area previously.
Francis called the case "very disturbing." He asked anyone with information about Hendricks's alleged conduct to call Homeland Security Investigations at 513-246-1461.
"We believe that there's a high probability that other children may have been impacted by his actions," he said.
Hendricks also returns to the U.S. annually for several months and has a residence in the Cincinnati area, according to Glassman.
There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, Philippine Catholic church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration cell. Glassman said authorities are working to determine how to return Hendricks to Ohio to answer the charges against him, but he is also facing charges in the Philippines.
"I can tell you that I want to prosecute this case," Glassman said.
Hendricks allegedly abused 10 victims, including some who came forward after the complaint was filed, according to Francis. He said four of the victims came forward at a recent town hall meeting in the Philippines.
Some of the victims served as altar boys in Naval, according to Sandoval. The suspect is accused of 50 counts of molestation in his residence in a case that's "both shocking and appalling," she said.
"The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them," Sandoval said by telephone. U.S. authorities provided information about the alleged sexual assaults to the Philippine government, she said.
The victims were reportedly warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, she said.
"Several of his victims have come forward with their statements," Sandoval said.
The U.S. Embassy may revoke Hendrick's passport to help Philippine authorities immediately deport the priest, the immigration bureau said in a statement.
Hendricks is "a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security," Sandoval said. "We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines."
WCPO staff reported from Cincinnati.