- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Loudoun County, Va., grand jury yesterday indicted a Catholic priest on one felony count of possession of child pornography.

The arrest of the Rev. Robert C. Brooks, 72, of Leesburg, was the latest in a massive two-year Internet child pornography investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Soren Johnson, a spokesman for the Arlington Diocese, said Father Brooks was most recently pastor of St. John the Apostle in Leesburg. He said Father Brooks resigned his position in October, when authorities informed the diocese of their investigation.

The investigation, which resulted from the dismantling of a Belarus-based company that provided billing services for more than 50 child pornography Web sites, has netted nearly 200 arrests in the United States and more than 1,000 worldwide.

Dean Boyd, an ICE spokesman, said the federal investigation, dubbed Operation Falcon, also has resulted in the arrest of a child psychologist, a police officer and a circus clown, among others.

“It’s just huge,” he said. “Frankly, it’s been very shocking to everyone.”

Father Brooks was ordained in Richmond in 1961 and became part of the Arlington Diocese upon its formation in 1974.

Father Brooks served at St. James in Falls Church from 1980 to 1990, St. Ambrose in Annandale from 1973 to 1980, St. Mark in Vienna in 1972 and St. John in Highland Springs in 1971. He was assistant pastor at St. Philip in Falls Church from 1968 to 1971 and assistant pastor at St. Louis in Alexandria from 1961 to 1968.

“The diocese is aware of no sexual misconduct or abuse on the part of Father Brooks in his 30 years as a priest of the Diocese of Arlington or the 13 years as a priest of the Diocese of Richmond,” said Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Arlington Diocese.

Authorities also said yesterday that there are no accusations that Father Brooks had inappropriate contact with children. He was released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.

Mr. Boyd said investigators are sifting through names that turned up on credit card records seized in 2003 from the Internet billing company Regpay and its affiliates.

“Instead of going after the kiddie porn sites, we went after the billing companies,” he said. “Basically, we have every credit card transaction these guys ever made.”

Mr. Boyd said investigators have been prioritizing their work, depending on how much contact the people named in the credit card records are likely to have with children.

He said thorough investigations are being conducted to ensure that the people named in the records subscribed, paid for and downloaded child pornography. He said more arrests are likely.

“We will take action as quickly as possible to the extent that we can legally,” he said.

Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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