$175,000 bond for Arlington Heights priest facing child porn charges
A Roman Catholic priest at an Arlington Heights church was ordered held on $175,000 bond Wednesday on child pornography charges.
Clovis Vilchez-Parra, associate pastor at Mission San Juan Diego, is charged with possession of child pornography and reproduction of child pornography following an investigation by the Cook County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
If convicted Vilchez-Parra, 34, faces up to 30 years in prison.
Chicago Archdiocese officials removed Vilchez-Parra from ministry pending the outcome of the case.
"Based on this information pertaining to Father Clovis Javier Vilchez-Parra, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich has accepted the recommendation of the Independent Review Board that Father Vilchez-Parra be withdrawn from ministry pending the resolution of this matter," read an archdiocese statement issued Wednesday. "Under our justice system, Father Vilchez-Parra is innocent until proven guilty. The church stands ready to cooperate fully with the civil authorities as part of our commitment to the safety of children."
Vilchez-Parra, a native of Peru who moved to the U.S. in 2007, has worked at the Arlington Heights church about 18 months, authorities said. Previously, he was associate pastor at Our Lady of Mercy parish in Chicago.
He was arrested during an undercover investigation by the Cook County task force into individuals searching for and downloading images of child exploitation, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Lorna Amado-Chevlin. Palatine, Bartlett and Chicago police departments were among those involved in the case, authorities said.
Palatine and Bartlett police on Monday executed a search warrant at a home on the 100 block of South Arlene Drive in Palatine owned by the Chicago Archdiocese where Vilchez-Parra lived, police said.
Officers recovered the defendant's laptop and "associated media containing child pornography," Palatine police reported.
The laptop contained "numerous files ... of children engaged in acts of sexual conduct," Amado-Chevlin said. Children depicted in the video were under age 13, with some as young as 5 years old, Amado-Chevlin said.
There is no indication that children from either parish are depicted in the videos, authorities said.
Prosecutors say Vilchez-Parra admitted in a videotaped statement to police that the laptop was his and that he had sole access to it. Prosecutors say he also admitted that he searched for and downloaded videos of children engaged in sexual conduct; downloaded the images to a thumb drive after his laptop malfunctioned and later uploaded them to the computer after it was repaired and that he knew the children in the videos were under age 13.
In setting bail, Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo referred to Vilchez-Parra's position of authority and the need to ensure community safety. He ordered Vilchez-Parra to surrender his passport and have no contact with anyone under 18. Cataldo also prohibited the defendant from using the Internet or a cellphone.
Defense attorney Joseph Robby did not object to the special conditions, saying during the hearing that if his client makes bail, "his employer will probably place more onerous restrictions on him."
Vilchez-Parra was ordained in 2012 after studying at Mundelein Seminary, according to the Catholic New World newspaper online archives.
He has no criminal background.
"I have no comment," Robby said following the hearing at the Rolling Meadows courthouse. "It's like baseball. The first pitch just got thrown out by the state and we've got nine innings to play."
Last month, archdiocesan officials said they had substantiated 352 abuse cases involving 66 priests since 1952. Church officials also indicated they paid out $130 million in settlements to victims and put in place new policies to prevent abuse.
Vilchez-Parra next appears in court on March 17.
Daily Herald reporter Jake Griffin contributed to this report