Parish Predators

Despite the bishopís remarks to the contrary, the Galveston-Houston Roman Catholic Archdiocese had child molesters and let them go. But donít blame just the Church.

Dynamic was not receiving referrals just from the Harris County Public Health Department.

In 2003, the State Department of Health Services, through the Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership, approved Dynamic as a Medicaid provider. The state did not run criminal background checks on provider personnel until this year, but even if it had in 2003, it would not have checked out Moreno, because the department didn't know he existed.

A State Health Department spokeswoman said the department's contract listed Halbert as the owner of Dynamic, and only he and Alford were authorized to see patients.

She also said the clinic stopped billing Medicaid in May 2005 -- the month Moreno was arrested. (Houston police arrested him at the clinic.)

In June 2006, the Houston Chronicle reported that the County Public Health Department was notifying the parents of 46 children who were treated at the clinic by a man charged with sexual assault of children. Department spokeswoman Rita Obey confirmed in July that an investigation was still pending; she declined to say how many parents had actually been contacted.

While Beatrice Molho, Moreno's girlfriend, has never been accused of a crime, her attorney told the Chronicle in May 2005 that she was closing the clinic and considering opening another.

Her attorney, Gus Pappas, would not reveal the name of that clinic to the Press, but personnel at CarePro Healthcare confirmed that Molho managed the clinic, located at 8885 West Bellfort.

Pappas also contradicted Obey by saying no agencies were investigating potential child sexual abuse at Dynamic Health Care. When told that the department was notifying the parents of 46 children treated at the clinic, Pappas told the Press: "Forty-six is not a very big number."

Pappas, who said he has represented child victims of sexual abuse, also betrayed a lack of awareness of the vast majority of crimes against children by telling the Press the charges against Moreno were not "your typical kid gets abducted and raped and abused by some unknown person." (Children's Protective Services, for example, is an agency that exists solely to investigate the thousands of allegations of child abuse by family members and/or caretakers; also, the entire Catholic Church sex scandal revolves around the abuse of children by trusted authority figures well known to the victims and their families.)

Pappas also suggested that the family of one of Moreno's accusers was complicit in the abuse.

"There was a long and extensive outgoing relationship between this entire almost was as if, notwithstanding these allegations...everybody kind of knew what was going on and...there was financial benefits to be gained by everybody, so it was kind of overlooked," he said.

Pappas's "financial benefits" reference was based on his belief that Moreno paid for the alleged victim's wedding and was in fact the boy's godfather.

"It was just really very sordid and demented, from my perspective, but when you kind of looked into, you know, why are the parents involved with this guy and why is all this happening, why is he paying for kids' weddings?" Pappas said.

The accuser told the Press that Moreno paid for half of his high school graduation ring and, based on that, told everyone he was the boy's godfather. However, Moreno also told people he was a doctor.

While Pappas confirmed that Molho and Moreno were at one time romantically involved, he said they never lived together. However, a driver's license database search listed identical addresses for both in 2004.

Pappas also said there were no allegations of abuse occurring at the clinic, but at least five men have filed police reports claiming Moreno abused them during their health screenings.

And while Pappas maintains that Moreno was a "foreign-trained" medical professional authorized to perform certain health procedures in Texas, he could not provide the Press with any supporting documents. The spokeswoman for the Texas Medical Board said searching for the names of authorized foreign-trained doctors is outside the scope of the Texas Open Records Act.

Furthermore, when the Press tried to find out how the Texas Health and Human Services Commission -- charged with overseeing the state's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs -- approved a clinic staffed by a fugitive child molester and two doctors with extensive disciplinary histories, spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman was not much help. After two weeks of trying to understand the commission's approval and oversight process, the Press finally reached Brian Flood, the commission's inspector general.

Flood said the commission did not have the funds to conduct background checks until the state legislature allocated them in December 2005. He also said the commission was now charging an extra $49.50 application fee to help subsidize the costs. To date, the commission has conducted background checks on 4,000 individuals, resulting in the disqualification of 150 clinics.

"There were some weaknesses identified in the system prior to that period of time as it relates to doctors," Flood said.

The Getaway

The third breakdown was, of course, the low bond that allowed Moreno to flee.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Marie Primm refused to comment on the Moreno case, saying she did not want to "hinder" an ongoing investigation.

Primm has ordered Moreno's criminal file to be sealed and would not confirm the charges against him.

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