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Catholic priest deported to India for molesting minor in US

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

A Catholic priest from India - who previously worked with the Archdiocese of Winona, Minnesota - was deported today following his conviction for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old.

Leo Charles Koppala, 48, was escorted by officers of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) on a commercial flight and turned over to Indian authorities on May 14 in New Delhi, the federal agency said.

This deportation was conducted by officers with ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in Bloomington, Minnesota.

On June 8, 2013, the Blue Earth (Minnesota) Police Department arrested Koppala and charged him with second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The victim was 12-year-old at the time of the offense.

On June 10, 2013, Koppala posted bail and was released from local custody.

Koppala was convicted on March 31 at the Faribault County District Court at Blue Earth of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and was sentenced to 31 days, with credit for time served, and 25 years supervised probation.

Upon his release from Faribault County, Koppala was arrested by ICE officers and issued a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge.

While in ICE custody, Koppala signed a stipulation agreeing not to contest his deportation. On April 1, 2014, a federal immigration judge ordered Koppala's deportation.

"Koppala held a position of trust in the Catholic Church and the community. He broke that trust. We sincerely hope that his permanent removal from the United States will help the healing process for the victim and the victim's family," said Scott Baniecke, field office director for ERO St. Paul.

Following his criminal conviction, Koppala was relieved of his ministry and discharged from service by the Archdiocese of Winona, which also alerted the bishop of his home diocese in Nellore, India.

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First Published: Wed, May 14 2014. 23:53 IST