FEDERAL PRESS RELEASE – Former Priest Arthur Perrault sentenced to more than 30 years for conviction on Federal Child Sexual Abuse charges

ALBUQUERQUE – Arthur Perrault, 81, a former Catholic priest in New Mexico, was sentenced today in federal court in Santa Fe, N.M., to more than 30 years (365 months) of imprisonment to be followed by five years of supervised release for his conviction on child sexual abuse charges. Perrault also will be required to register as a sex offender. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson for the District of New Mexico, Special Agent in Charge James C. Langenberg of the FBI Albuquerque Division, and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas J. Dorval of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), Detachment 814.

        The Honorable Martha Vázquez, United States District Judge, imposed the sentence after a jury previously returned a guilty verdict against Perrault in April 2019, following an eight-day trial.  The jury convicted Perrault on six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12.  The jury found Perrault guilty of repeatedly sexually abusing the minor victim in 1991 and 1992, while on federally protected land, Kirtland Air Force Base in Bernalillo County, N.M., and Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe County, N.M.

        In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Anderson said, “There are few acts more horrific than the long-term sexual abuse of a child.  As a parish priest and high school teacher, Arthur Perrault abused his position of trust and authority to abuse numerous children in New Mexico over the course of more than 20 years.  At long last, today’s sentence holds Perrault accountable for his deplorable conduct and hopefully provides his victims with some measure of validation and closure.  I would like to recognize the FBI and AFOSI for their tireless efforts to deliver justice in this case.” 

        “This case was all about seeking justice for the victims of Arthur Perrault.  The FBI worked closely with our partners here at home as well as halfway across the world to make sure this defendant would be held accountable for his actions.  Today, he found out he faces the near-certainty he will spend the rest of his life behind bars,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Langenberg.  “I want to thank the victims and witnesses for their courage in coming forward and helping us with this case.  Without their assistance, this day would not have been possible.”

        “Today’s sentence is a big step forward in the healing process and brought justice for our Airmen and their families.  The perseverance of all parties involved in the investigation and prosecution of Arthur Perrault made this moment a reality,” said Special Agent in Charge Dorval.

        The evidence at trial established that Perrault, then an ordained Catholic priest, was in New Mexico in the late 1960s and early 1970s, teaching at a private Catholic high school in Albuquerque.  Years later, one of Perrault’s victims revealed being sexually assaulted by Perrault when he was a student at the school.  The trial evidence established that Perrault continued molesting adolescent boys in New Mexico for decades, until the early 1990s.

Around 1990, Perrault, then a parish priest in an Albuquerque Catholic church, befriended a nine-year-old altar boy and began grooming the child by giving him gifts, taking him on field trips, and making him feel special. The child, now a grown man identified as the John Doe victim in the indictment, testified about how Perrault’s affectionate hugs and kisses gradually progressed to regular acts of sexual assault and abuse, some of which took place at Kirtland Air Force Base and the Santa Fe National Cemetery, over the next two years.

Seven other victims testified about being sexually abused by Perrault in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when they were children, each describing traumatic experiences similar to those experienced by John Doe. The victims described how Perrault used his position as a priest to gain their trust and their parents’ trust, and how he abused that trust to sexually assault and abuse them.

The jury also heard testimony from a psychologist, an expert on child sex abuse, who testified about delayed disclosure, and explained that it is common for victims of sexual abuse to delay disclosing the abuse, sometimes for decades, sometimes forever. She explained how traumatic events affect memory and the ability of victims of child sex abuse to recall that abuse over time. The psychologist discussed “grooming” – the process of building an emotional connection with a child and sometimes the child’s family to gain their trust for the purpose of sexual abuse.

Other witnesses testified about Perrault’s admissions of child molestation, including an FBI Special Agent, a State Department employee, and one of the victim’s parents. The evidence against Perrault included two letters he wrote; one in which he apologized to the mother of another victim, and the other in which he admitted molesting “teens.”

The jury also learned that Perrault partially was responsible for the delay in bringing him to justice. The evidence established that in 1992, Perrault fled from New Mexico, eventually settling in Morocco, after learning that some of his victims intended publicly to reveal that he had sexually abused them.

Moroccan law enforcement authorities arrested Perrault on Oct. 12, 2017, in Morocco at the request of the United States on a provisional arrest warrant issued based on the indictment, which was filed on Sept. 21, 2017. Morocco ordered his extradition and the FBI assumed custody of Perrault from Moroccan authorities on Sept. 20, 2018, and transported him to the United States. He has been in federal custody since that time.

        This case was investigated by the FBI Albuquerque office with assistance from the AFOIS Detachment 814.  The extradition of Perrault from Morocco was the result of close cooperation between these two investigating agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, the Morocco Ministry of Justice, Moroccan law enforcement authorities, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, and the FBI Legal Attaché in Morocco. 

        Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean J. Sullivan and Holland S. Kastrin prosecuted the case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Justice Department to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually abuse children and exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.  Information about this prosecution is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-nm/priest-prosecution.  Individuals may provide information about other conduct by Perrault by emailing the U.S. Attorney’s Office at usanm-priest@usdoj.gov or calling the FBI’s Albuquerque Division at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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