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Former Catholic Priest In Harford County Pleads Guilty To Preying On A Minor

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Fernando Cristancho, a former Catholic priest in Harford County, pleaded guilty on Monday to coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office announced on Tuesday.

According to Cristancho's guilty plea, the former priest sexually abused a young lector even after the Archdiocese of Baltimore said he could no longer work in the church.  He also acknowledged producing child pornography involving several victims.

In 1999, Cristancho, who was ordained in in Colombia, began working at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Harford County and immediately started spending time with the boy's family, prosecutors said. The boy became a lector at the church when he was 11.

When they were working together, Cristancho would tell the boy that he had back pain and asked for back rubs. He took the boy to dinner and kissed him. He also showed the boy videos of two men having sex and suggested they do the same.

In 2002, the Archdiocese of Baltimore revoked Cristancho's ability to work as a priest, but a parishioner allowed him to hold religious services in their home, and the boy continued to work as a lector or altar server.

During the summer, Cristancho invited himself to a family camping trip and slept in the same tent as the boy. He later arranged to have the boy stay at his house for the weekend, which he did on a regular basis for more than a year. Prosecutors said Cristancho sexually abused the boy from 2002 through at least Fall 2003, prosecutors said.

In 2017, Cristancho went to a pharmacy to print pictures and an employee helping him with the equipment noticed several photos of naked children, including one image that appeared to show a bite mark on a young boy's buttocks, prosecutors said. The employee contacted police.

During a search of Cristancho's home, authorities found nude photos and videos of four other minors, with many of the victims being recorded when they were younger than 5 years old, prosecutors said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec.  20. Cristancho faces between 10 years and 25 years in federal prison.

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