A former Roman Catholic priest in Charleroi admitted to federal investigators he viewed online child pornography for more than a decade and traveled numerous times to Thailand for sexual encounters with teenage boys, prosecutors say.
David Dzermejko, who was stripped of his collar in 2009 amid other allegations he sexually abused boys, also admitted to officers he maintained online relationships with boys he met in Thailand, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said.
The details of this investigation were revealed Thursday after Dzermejko, 64, of Braddock, pleaded guilty in Pittsburgh before U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to one count of possession of material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor. Sentencing is set for 11:30 a.m. March 21, and prosecutors say he could be remanded to prison for up to 10 years.
Investigators searched his residence Jan. 11 after being informed by Microsoft Corp. that a user whose screen name was Lord Winchester Cuthbert Thurston VII had uploaded a sexual image of a prepubescent child to SkyDrive, a file hosting service.
“The child pornography was found on various computers and computer-related equipment taken from Dzermejko’s former residence,” Hickton stated in a news release.
He was indicted in the case in May.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh removed him from the priesthood in 2009, while he was serving as the pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church in Charleroi. A couple brought forth allegations to the diocese he sexually abused their son decades ago at another parish. No charges were filed because the victim was deceased when the allegations were made.
Two other men later came forth with similar accusations, which the diocese determined to have been credible.
Dzermejko has denied those allegations.
His attorney, John A. Knoor of Pittsburgh, said his client “accepted the responsibility to a single count of possessing child pornography.”
Knoor said he will make a presentation at sentencing on Dzermejko’s complicated life.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the diocese said it had no knowledge of the criminal activity.
Bishop David Zubik wrote to all priests and deacons in the diocese in January stating “child pornography is a criminal act for which society will hear no excuse, accept no extenuating circumstances or grant any mercy,” the diocesan news release stated.
He urged them to pray for all victims of pornography and especially the child victims.
“Their pain cries to the heavens for justice,” Zubik stated in the letter.
The diocese also pledged to continue to cooperate with authorities in the case.