Priest convicted of fondling child in Winona diocese is deported to native India

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: May 14, 2014 - 1:50 PM

MINNEAPOLIS — A priest who was convicted of fondling a 12-year-old girl while he was working in the Diocese of Winona has been deported to his native India, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Wednesday.

ICE said Leo Charles Koppala, 48, was turned over to authorities in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Koppola was charged last June with second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim younger than 13. He pleaded guilty in March, admitting he fondled a girl while eating dinner at her grandmother's house.

ICE says Koppala didn't contest his deportation, and an immigration judge ordered his deportation April 1.

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

The Diocese of Winona has said Koppala was assigned in 2009 to the Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Blue Earth and to St. Mary's in Winnebago. The diocese put him on leave in June and permanently removed him from ministry. The diocese has said it alerted the Vatican and Koppala's home diocese of Nellore, India, about the conviction "so that appropriate measures can be taken upon his return to India."

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