A retired Roman Catholic priest accused of molesting seven girls over three decades in California was arrested Friday in Alaska while on a world cruise, authorities in Los Angeles said.
The Rev. George Rucker, 82, was taken into custody aboard a cruise ship that had stopped to let off an ill crew member, police said. He was being held by Alaskan state troopers at Dutch Harbor, in the Fox Islands in far southwestern Alaska.
Los Angeles police Lt. Horace Frank said investigators planned to travel to Alaska to bring him back.
Rucker is among four Southern California priests arrested this week in the first criminal cases brought in Los Angeles and Orange counties since the nationwide sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in January.
Two others were charged with molesting boys between 1977 and 1987 and another was arrested for investigation of molesting a girl who authorities say gave birth to his child in the 1970s.
Authorities allege Rucker molested seven girls in Los Angeles County from 1947 to 1979. He was charged Friday with 23 felony counts of committing lewd acts with children under age 14, and if convicted could face up to 26 years in prison. Bail was set at $1 million.
Police had planned to take Rucker into custody Tuesday but found him gone when they arrived at his home, an assisted-living facility for priests.
Meanwhile, the Boston Archdiocese, struggling financially because of the slowing economy and facing millions of dollars in sexual abuse settlements, secured a loan Friday from a Catholic service organization that could be worth as much as $24.45 million.
The Knights of Columbus loan was secured by a mortgage worth 75 percent of the appraised value of the 16-acre Chancery grounds and is to be repaid over 20 years.
Archdiocese chancellor David Smith said the church’s ability to raise money has been hurt by the uncertain economy. He added that “some people who have supported the church’s work in past years are withholding … due to their feelings regarding the terrible scandal of sexual abuse.”