Lawsuit Claims Priest Abused Boys In Singing Group

LORAIN (AP) - A former Roman Catholic priest molested Hispanic boys who were members of a traveling singing group in the late 1960s, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit, filed in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, seeks unspecified damages against the Rev. Martin Van Trieste.

Beningo "Benny" Pacheco II, one of two plaintiffs, said Monday he was sexually assaulted as a boy by Van Trieste when he was a priest at Sacred Heart Chapel, a Roman Catholic church serving the Hispanic community in Lorain. The church is part of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, which was also named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims "the church and diocesan officials knew or should have known about defendant Van Trieste's conduct with the plaintiffs and other children, but failed to do anything in response to numerous allegations."

Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said he could not comment on the allegations. He said Van Trieste was a missionary operating the church for a Catholic order called the Mission Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. He said the diocese did not have day-to-day oversight for the chapel until the Mission Servants relinquished control in 1982.

A woman answering the telephone at Sacred Heart referred questions to the diocese.

According to the lawsuit, Van Trieste was sent to Lorain to recruit Puerto Rican families to the area.

Van Trieste organized a traveling singing group of Hispanic boys called The Little Martins, the lawsuit said. Attorney William Crosby said Van Trieste abused the boys in the group when they traveled around the state for performances.

Pacheco said Van Trieste assaulted him at a hotel in the late 1960s. He said he was 12 or 13 years old at the time of the alleged assault and he never reported it.

"The reason I am coming forward right now is I know there are possibly other victims, and I want to let them know they are not alone," said Pacheco, now 48.

The second plaintiff did not disclose his name. The lawsuit said he was also abused by Van Trieste when he was a member of The Little Martins.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)