Priest sentenced to life in prison by Ohio judge for sex trafficking

“The FBI has zero tolerance for sexual predators and those who commit crimes against children," FBI agent Greg Nelson said.

Published: November 18, 2023 11:35am

An Ohio Catholic priest was sentenced to life in prison on Friday after being convicted on five counts related to sex-trafficking charges.

A federal jury in Toledo, Ohio, found defendant Michael Zacharias, 56, guilty of five sex-trafficking counts, following a trial that took place back in May of this year. He was given concurrent 20-year sentences on two counts. 

Prosecutors stated that Zacharias, who was arrested back in 2020, “paid the victims to engage in sex acts with him using the victims’ fear of serious harm to compel their compliance.”

They also said that three of the victims were dealing with drug addiction and the priest waited until they were deeper into their addiction in order to "propose commercial sex," according to The Associated Press

“Using a position of trust while deviously preying on one’s vulnerabilities, especially juveniles, is reprehensible,” said Special Agent in Charge Greg Nelsen of the FBI Cleveland Field Office.

“The FBI has zero tolerance for sexual predators and those who commit crimes against children. We will continue to find and investigate individuals and their network who exploit and traffic children and seek justice for the victims and their families," he continued. 

The assistant director of the FBI's crime division, Luis Quesada, said that the department is grateful for the victims and families who reported Zacharias and were able to end the abuse and see justice served.  

The Holy See will make the final judgment on Zacharias' status as a priest. 

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