A Glendale priest was arrested for allegedly sending sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old boy in Westchester, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s office announced on Wednesday.
Reverend Francis Hughes, a former priest at St. Pancras Church in Glendale, was charged with one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography after receiving three photos of the 15-year-old’s penis, Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. Hughes faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
Hughes and the 15-year-old began exchanging text messages via the dating app Grindr, in February 2020, according to the charges. Knowing the boy was a minor, Hughes spoke with the boy about sexually explicit matters and on three occasions received photos of the boy’s penis, the charges state.
The priest made an attempt to meet the minor in person, allegedly texting, “When we meet we can try to make it a regular thing.” But the two never met and when the boy told Hughes his Grindr account had been suspended, Hughes stopped replying, according to the feds.
On July 29, the FBI searched Hughes’ Glendale home and interviewed the priest about his communications with the minor, the charges said.
Hughes admitted to knowing the boy was underage and added that it was not the first time he had engaged in sexual communications with a minor, according to the authorities.
The priest said that he’s had at least one in-person sexual encounter with a boy he believed to be underage, the charges state. Hughes added that he has attempted to meet numerous other minors in-person to engage in sexual acts.
Hughes was listed on the St. Pancras Church website’s staff page during the investigation, according to the charges. His name and photo have since been taken down. Hughes has been with St. Pancras since 2015, according to the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.
“The pastor was removed from his post as of July 29, 2020, and a new temporary parish administrator has been assigned effective immediately,” the Diocese said in a statement.
A spokesperson for St. Pancras Church declined to comment.
The investigation into Hughes’ alleged acts of sexual abuse are ongoing. Victims are encouraged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.