CINCINNATI, OH. (FOX19 NOW) - A priest with ties to the Tri-State is being charged with sexually molesting several young boys in the Philippines over the past decade - and more victims may be here, federal officials announced Thursday.
Kenneth B. Hendricks, 77, was arrested Tuesday night in the Philippines, where he serves as a missionary priest, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
A total of 10 victims who were between the ages of 7 and 15 told federal authorities or Philippines police Hendricks sexually assaulted them at various but dozens and dozens of times between 2009 up until last month, court records show.
“It’s horrifying," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said in a news conference Thursday.
“It’s horrible, horrible abusive conduct. It’s grooming young children who wanted to be involved in church activities and sexually abusing them.”
He said flight records show Hendricks flew back to the U.S. at least once a year, into Los Angeles and then onto Cincinnati, often for several months at a time.
There is a “high probability” more victims could here, said Steve Francis, an agent with Homeland Security Investigations.
“This investigation is ongoing, so part of the reason we are announcing the charges is we want to know whether there are any victims here in the Cincinnati area, in Ohio or in the United States,” Glassman said.
“Protecting the most vulnerable is a solemn obligation of the United States, this office, all of our law enforcement agency partners. The allegations here are extremely serious," he said.
"They involve grievous misconduct and abuse of a position of trust - about as bad as you can imagine abuse of a position of trust - so that is something we take extremely seriously. We want to make sure that we have found all of the victims, that they are vindicated and the perpetrator is held accountable.”
Details of what Hendricks is accused of doing to the boys in the Philippines were revealed in court records unsealed Thursday.
They are heartbreaking, hard to read and horrifying to imagine happening to young, innocent children.
The priest insisted they take baths together, and would molest the victims alone or with other boys, warning them “if they told anyone they would all go to prison,” a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office states.
Hendricks admitted to abusing the boys, according to excerpts of telephone recordings between him and one of his victims that authorities included in his criminal complaint.
“Happy days are gone. It’s all over,” he said, according to the document.
Glassman is intent on prosecuting the case.
He said Hendricks can be tried here for crimes that occurred in another country because the charges are federal, and it’s a federal crime for a U.S. citizen to commit a sexual offense overseas.
His office and U.S. immigration officials are working with authorities in the Philippines to extradite Hendricks to this country for prosecution on charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
Hendricks remained in a Manila jail Thursday
He is listed as a missionary in Asia on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s website.
By late Thursday morning, they edited it to say in bold red lettering: "(Fr. Hendricks is not, nor ever has been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati).
The U.S. Attorney’s Office initially said in its first news release Thursday morning that Hendricks was “a former Cincinnati priest" and was “currently assigned internationally by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to mission work.”
But Mike Schafer, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and Toni Cashnelli, spokeswoman for the Order of Friars Minor’s Province of St. John the Baptist (also known as Franciscan Friars) said Hendricks was not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and has never been a priest in the U.S.
Another representative for the archdiocese released a statement late Thursday morning reiterating that:
“Fr. Kenneth Hendricks, who was arrested in the city of Naval in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 2018 is not, nor has ever been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati," reads the statement from Jennifer Schack.
"To the best of our knowledge, he was ordained to the priesthood in the Philippines to serve in the diocese of Naval. He has never had any assignment with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
“Although not a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Fr. Hendricks is listed on our website as a Catholic missionary serving in Asia. He is one of around 75 missionaries from Southwest Ohio who receive some financial support from the Mission Office of the Archdiocese. None of these individuals work for, or take direction from, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
“The abuse of children or any vulnerable person is abhorrent and needs to be prosecuted. We are cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and Homeland Security regarding this matter, and urge anyone with any information about Fr. Hendricks to call the phone number provided this morning by Homeland Security, 513-246-1461.
"We are also working diligently to make the faithful aware of Fr. Hendrick’s arrest and learn of any potential interaction he may have had with anyone locally. We will be posting all of this information on our website and social media platforms.”
Schafer and Cashnelli said Hendricks is a Cincinnati native and was a brother with the Franciscan order.
He went to the Philippines as a missionary for the order, they said, and then became a priest there and remains with the Archdiocese of Manila.
“He is not a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati nor has he ever served as a priest in Cincinnati,” Schafer said.
“Even when he was with the Franciscans, he was a brother, not a priest and he separately became a priest of the diocese in the Philippines. He never served as a priest in the U.S. for anybody. He doesn’t report to us at all. He does not take any direction from us.”
Cashnelli said Hendricks left the order in 1986 while he was still a brother.
She said he was at an Over-the-Rhine parish during his time with them, St. Francis Seraph Church.
She said federal authorities came to their office seeking information on Hendricks Tuesday and then she learned details of the allegations against him through Filipino media on Wednesday.