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Leader of MN parish charged in Pennsylvania friar sex abuse case

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The leader of a Minnesota parish is facing charges in another state in connection with a former friar who is believed to have molested more than 100 children.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General said Tuesday the Very Rev. Anthony Criscitelli – and two other priests – are charged with one count each of endangering the welfare of children, as well as criminal conspiracy.

Criscitelli currently leads a parish in Minnesota, KARE 11 reports, and is listed as the Very Rev. of St. Bridget's Parish on the website, and former minister provincial of the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular of the Immaculate Conception Province, Pennsylvania.

The charges against Criscitelli (which you can read here) are tied to a Franciscan friar, Brother Stephen Baker.

According to the complaint, evidence shows Baker may have molested more than 100 children while working in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania area from 1992-2000. Ten complaints that he molested students while teaching at Warren John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980s in Ohio were settled in court. In addition, he was removed from the ministry in 2000, the document says, after his religious order settled a claim that he'd abused a minor while serving in Minnesota in the 1980s.

Baker spent time at St. Patrick's Church in Inver Grove Heights during the 1970s (see the timeline on page five). Jeff Anderson and Associates, an attorney's office that handles high-profile priest sex abuse cases in Minnesota, also has a timeline of Baker's assignements.

Criscitelli meanwhile is one of the three now-charged former leaders of the Franciscan Friars who had "exclusive and total control over the assignment of personnel," the attorney general's office says – including Baker.

According to the charges against Criscitelli, he knew there was a"safety plan" in place for Baker that said he shouldn't be allowed around children; yet didn't enforce those rules, and let Baker work at a mall and festivals during the mid- to late-2000s.

All this happened while Criscitelli was in Minnesota and Baker was living in Pennsylvania, the charges say.

Criscitelli told a grand jury that he was not told Baker was "high risk," and argued he was not Baker's supervisor (the latter of which the grand jury did not agree with).

WITF says it couldn't get a hold of Criscitelli for a comment.

Criscitelli and the two others charged – Giles A. Schinelli and Robert J. D'Aversa – both "acted to protect the institution they led rather than the children and families they served," the attorney general's document says.

Baker took his own life in 2013, leaving notes around his body that apologize for "bringing scandal" to the friars, the attorney general's office says.

The order told the Associated Press it extended condolences and apologies to the victims, and noted it cooperated with the investigation.

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