Man who accused Cardinal Mahony of abuse charged with extortion

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) -- A man who accused Cardinal Roger Mahony of molesting him two decades ago has been charged with extortion, filing a false police report and other crimes, authorities said.

Loren Mitchell Saffels, 34, told Stockton police in June that he had been molested in 1982 by Mahony, who was bishop of Stockton at the time.

Mahony, now head of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, has maintained the claim was baseless.

Prosecutors charged Saffels after a three-month police investigation. In an arrest warrant, authorities described Saffels as a con artist with a criminal history of fraud, theft and impersonating a police officer.

''There are legitimate victims of this type of crime, and this makes it more difficult and burdensome for people that may have a legitimate case,'' said San Joaquin County District Attorney John Phillips.

Saffels pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges including embezzlement, grand theft from an employer not connected with the church and passing worthless checks, and was being held on $200,000 bail.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for Mahony, said the cardinal was pleased with the results of the investigation.

The Los Angeles Archdiocese made the case public in June when it issued a news release announcing Saffels' allegations and the cardinal's denial.

The previous month, Saffels had shown officials with the Stockton Diocese a journal that he said detailed the alleged misconduct. He demanded $1 million for ''past, present and future'' damages and a written apology, according to a statement filed with the request for a warrant to arrest Saffels.

A Fresno woman with a history of mental illness earlier this year also claimed that Mahony had molested her three decades ago. The cardinal, who denied the allegations, was cleared by police with a month.

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