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Travel Agency to Pay Molested Teen

Settlement: Firm arranged trip without background check of chaperons, suit says.

April 03, 2002|From Associated Press

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — A travel agency for Roman Catholic priests has agreed to pay an unspecified sum to the family of a teenager who says a phony Franciscan brother drugged and molested him during a trip that the company organized.

The family of Clay Brasuell said the accord was reached hours before the case was to go to trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

The lawsuit sought to hold Tracy, Calif.-based Fiat Voluntas Tua liable for failing to conduct a better background check on chaperons.

The settlement comes amid a wave of revelations about sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and allegations that church leaders shielded the clergymen and paid millions of dollars to settle claims.

"This puts every employer on notice to be more diligent about doing background checks of people they hire," said Peter Alfert, an attorney for the family. "It's even more important for religious and other organizations serving young people."

The suit centered on claims that Anthony Thomas Falco, then 60, posed as a Franciscan in 1999 and during a pilgrimage to an international youth festival in Bosnia, drugged and molested Brasuell, then 16.

Falco is serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty to lewd conduct and furnishing marijuana to minors in connection with the case.

Other defendants in the case, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Monterey, St. Joseph's Catholic Church of Santa Cruz, and its pastor, the Rev. Patrick Dooling, settled out of court last year, lawyers said.

Falco had ingratiated himself with Dooling by saying he was a former Episcopalian priest who became a Franciscan.

Falco wore the traditional Franciscan garb: a long brown flowing robe with a knotted belt, a large cross around his neck, and sandals.

He later told Dooling that he was a homosexual and a drug user, and had been arrested for possessing child pornography, lawyers say.

Fiat Voluntas Tua, Latin for "Thy will be done," couldn't be reached for comment.

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