SUMMIT, N.J. (AP) - A former chaplain at a Roman Catholic prep school in northern New Jersey faces criminal charges for engaging in “a pattern of behavior” that threatened the welfare of six students, prosecutors said.
Salvatore DiStefano, 61, who had been chaplain at the all-boys Oratory Preparatory School in Summit, allowed students to consume marijuana products in his office and tried to entice them to go off campus with him, according to a statement Thursday from the Union County Prosecutor's Office. He had been placed on leave in January following allegations of misconduct.
DiStefano is charged with five counts of using a juvenile to commit a crime and six counts of child endangerment.
His lawyer, Vincent Sanzone Jr., said DiStefano is innocent.
DiStefano is suspected of preying on members of an official school club he led known as the “Knights of Malta.” He made repeated attempts to speak with the students about sex, tried to entice one student to accompany him away from the school alone, and took steps to conceal that activity, including telling the student to delete text messages between them, prosecutors said.
He also enlisted club members to harass a former member so severely that he would quit school, prosecutors said.
The case was investigated by the prosecutor’s office and the state's Clergy Abuse Task Force assembled by state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
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