- Associated Press - Monday, March 31, 2014

WINONA, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota priest was taken into custody at his Monday sentencing and will be deported after admitting he fondled a girl while attending dinner at her grandmother’s home.

The Rev. Leo Koppala will be held by the Department of Homeland Security until his deportation proceedings and likely sent back to his native India, according to a statement from the Diocese of Winona said.

Koppala pleaded guilty March 17 to second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim younger than 13. He was sentenced to 25 years of supervised probation and ordered to register as a sex offender.

The Diocese of Winona says the 47-year-old Koppala was assigned in 2009 to the Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Blue Earth and to St. Mary’s in Winnebago.

He was placed on leave in June 2013. The diocese said it had permanently removed Koppala from ministry and dismissed him from employment as of Monday.

It also said it had informed the Vatican and an Indian bishop of his conviction “so that appropriate measures can be taken upon his return to India.”

“Our hearts and prayers will continue to be with the victim of this case,” Bishop John Quinn said in a statement. “I encourage anyone, or any organization, with information regarding the abuse or exploitation of children or young people to immediately report that information to law enforcement, as well as all of those who have suffered child sexual abuse.”

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