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Puerto Rico priest pleads guilty in abuse case

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest in Puerto Rico has pleaded guilty to transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual conduct, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.

Israel Berrios was arrested in May amid accusations that he sexually abused an altar boy from the time he was about 8 years old until he turned 17.

Authorities accused Berrios of giving the boy money, a computer and a camera and taking him on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas with his mother's permission in July 2008. The boy was 15 at the time.

Berrios is the first priest to face federal sex charges of that kind in the U.S. territory. He previously served as director of a Catholic school in the central town of Aibonito that the boy attended and was a priest in the Diocese of Caguas, south of the capital of San Juan.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Berrios could face up to 12 years in prison.

Authorities are investigating sex abuse allegations against at least 17 priests and eight dioceses in the U.S. territory.

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