Arthur Perrault served at Roman Catholic institutions in  New Mexico for decades before he fled to Morocco in the early 1990s.
The Albuquerque Journal via AP
Arthur Perrault served at Roman Catholic institutions in New Mexico for decades before he fled to Morocco in the early 1990s.
CNN —  

A former Roman Catholic priest who spent decades on the run was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sexually abusing an altar boy in New Mexico.

At a sentencing hearing Friday, US District Judge Martha Vazquez described the case involving Arthur Perrault, 81, as the “worst case that I have ever handled and ever seen.”

Perrault was convicted in April of seven federal counts for the early 1990s sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy, who was an altar boy at St. Bernadette’s parish in Albuquerque. Authorities said Perrault abused the child in several places, including at a veteran’s cemetery and a military base.

“I have to say, Mr. Perrault, that this is the worst case that I have ever handled and ever seen. I’m glad you’re looking at me, because it is extremely difficult to speak to someone and to try to explain one’s sentiments and have that person not give you the respect of looking at them,” Judge Vazquez told the former priest in the Santa Fe federal courtroom.

“It was supposed to be your job to help, not destroy,” she also told him.

Perrault’s attorney did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

The former priest fled to Morocco

Perrault met the “deeply devout” boy and his mother when he was a pastor at St. Bernadette’s parish. The abuse, which lasted for about two years, ended when Perrault fled the country in 1992.

He moved to Morocco when he learned that other victims were coming forward, prosecutors said.

The former priest lived in Morocco for 26 years and taught classes at a language center, authorities said.

“In Morocco, while Perrault lived freely and likely victimized more young students, I and other victims were left with the burden of shame, the trauma of sexual assault, and the struggle to cope with the symptoms of his abuse. Now it’s time for him to cope with prison. I urge you to impose the maximum sentence,” one of the victims wrote in a letter to the judge prior to the sentencing hearing.

He was arrested by local authorities in 2017 and sent to the United States last year. Morocco has no extradition treaty with the US, but the Moroccan government expelled him and transferred custody to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Perrault’s arrest came after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for the boy’s sexual abuse at two federal sites, the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

“The indictment captured only a small fraction of the crimes he actually committed, naming just one of his many victims and, by virtue of the constraints of federal jurisdiction, included only the molestations he inflicted on federal enclaves,” prosecutors said.

The former priest moved to New Mexico in the 1960s and became a teacher and faculty advisor at St. Pius High School. Prior to becoming a pastor at St. Bernadette’s parish, he served at local parishes Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Our Lady of the Assumption.

He has been accused of molesting multiple young boys while acting as their “mentor and spiritual advisor.” Some of the victims testified during Perrault’s trial but the former priest has only faced charges in one case.

CNN’s Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.