Mexican officials hold fugitive priest

March 15, 2008 

A fugitive Sacramento priest, who fled the country 17 years ago after allegations that he sexually abused two young girls, has been arrested in Mexico and may be extradited to the United States soon.

Gerardo Beltran, 50, is charged with four counts of child molestation occurring between 1989 and 1991 and involving two victims, according to a press release issued by the Sacramento County district attorney's office late Friday.

Beltran, who started serving in the diocese in 1982, disappeared in 1991 after Sacramento police began investigating allegations that he had abused two former child parishioners.

Sacramento church officials suspended Beltran's faculties, a process that supposedly would stop him from working in the clergy. However, he had reportedly been serving openly as a priest in a remote village in his native Mexico.

Sacramento church officials said they were relieved to learn that Beltran had been apprehended.

"This is welcome news. Beltran's victims will finally have their day in court and finally have the chance to see justice done," Bishop William K. Weigand, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, said in a statement Friday night.

Beltran served at St. Dominic Parish in Orland, St. Joseph in Sacramento and St. Anthony in Winters.

Beltran's extradition must meet terms under a treaty between the two countries.

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