Parish Predators

Despite the bishop’s remarks to the contrary, the Galveston-Houston Roman Catholic Archdiocese had child molesters and let them go. But don’t blame just the Church.

July 2: "Juan Carlos leaves Saturday, July 6."

On July 26, Rossi wrote the bishop of the Medellín, Colombia, archdiocese, stating: "If Juan Carlos does not receive therapy, he could be a risk to children. I want to make you aware of this situation in case he attempts ordination of ministry with children in your Archdiocese or a diocese in Colombia."

The notes claim that the parish reported the allegation to Harris County Children's Protective Services, which subsequently reported it to the Houston Police Department. Rossi's notes state that the boys' parents wanted to "avoid a scandal" and did not want to file charges.

A 2004 court filing by the archdiocese claims that the police conducted an investigation in June 1996 and that police stated Patino-Arango was "free to leave the country."

Because CPS destroys closed cases after three years, it is impossible to verify whether the agency ever received the complaint. However, two public records requests from HPD turned up no records of a complaint or investigation. (In 2005, the boys' parents swore in affidavits that they did not recall ever being contacted by Houston police.)

And in a 1998 letter from archdiocese seminarian director Stephen Tiemann to his counterpart in Colombia, Tiemann wrote, "If Juan Carlos had stayed in the United States, they would have arrested him."

Patino-Arango was indicted in 2004 for indecency with a child. Records at the Colombia Department of Education, as well as media reports from that country, indicate that Patino-Arango is working at a school in Medellín. Colombia has no extradition agreement with the United States.

In 2005, a fourth man stepped forward to say he, too, was abused by Patino-Arango. His allegations led to a second indictment.

The man, who joined the John Doe suit in August, has asked that the Press not publish his name.

He and his two brothers also have filed reports with the Houston police alleging their abuse at the hands of German Moreno.

The archdiocese hired Vinson & Elkins to mount a vigorous defense in the Patino-Arango case. This defense includes blaming the victims, a good four years after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops admonished bishops for victimizing accusers and coddling pedophiles.

While the victims say Patino-Arango was introduced to them as a "priest," and that Patino-Arango offered to counsel the boys on sexual matters, lawyers for the archdiocese argue, "Any message gleaned by plaintiffs from any function Patino performed was solely an inference drawn by the plaintiffs."

The lawyers also argue that the archdiocese wasn't really responsible for Patino-Arango because he was "a mere seminary student" and not an employee. (Again, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 ordered each diocese to run criminal background checks on seminarians.)

Archdiocese spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor told the Press that the archdiocese has routinely run background checks since 2003. She also explained that the archdiocese is in compliance with the conference charter and has provided training to children and youths "to protect themselves from becoming victims of sexual abuse and have done so since 2004."

Breakdown II: The Harris County Department of Public Health and Texas Department of State Health Services

Under the Refugee Medical Assistance Program, the federal government provides funds to state health departments to provide free health screenings to official refugees.

In October 2004, Harris County Commissioners Court contracted with Dynamic Health Care Clinic to be an official provider under the program. The court paid the clinic, then located at 6006 Bellaire Boulevard, $60,000 to provide services from October 2004 to September 2005. Broken down, the clinic would receive $120 per patient screening.

The Public Health Department's point of contact would be clinic manager Beatrice Molho, German Rojas Moreno's girlfriend and business partner.

The doctor authorized to perform the screenings was Horace Halbert Jr. This was the same Horace Halbert Jr. whom the Texas Medical Board fined $5,000 for "failure to practice medicine consistent with public health and welfare."

That was in 2001, but Halbert's trouble started years before.

In 1986, the board held a hearing to discuss Halbert's alleged "poor record keeping of controlled substances, possible intemperate use of drugs and alcohol and [his] non-therapeutic prescribing of anorectic agents [appetite suppressants]."

Halbert followed the board's recommendation that he submit himself "for complete physical examination and psychiatric evaluation to competent physicians."

In 1994, the board stayed a five-year suspension of Halbert's license, placing him on probation and ordering him to attend at least 50 hours of continuing medical education classes a year. The board also ordered that Halbert be monitored or supervised by a physician "acceptable to the Board."

In January 2005, Jack Alford became the clinic's lead physician. Alford told the Press that Halbert was gone by then. Alford told the Press he worked at Dynamic from January to April 2005 and never met Halbert. He said his job was to sign off on the patients Moreno -- who was not licensed -- treated.

The county's contract does not list Alford as an approved physician.

Alford also had a history with the Texas Medical Board. In 1991, he prescribed codeine to an undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officer. He subsequently pleaded nolo contendere to prescribing a controlled substance without a valid medical purpose, a felony. He was placed on five years' deferred adjudication and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine. Like Halbert, his five-year suspension was stayed. (Halbert failed to return multiple telephone messages.)

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