Peru officials charge Chicago man in connection with Sodalitium abuse scandal

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Peruvian officials have charged Chicago area resident Jeffrey Daniels with abuse that occurred while he was part of the Catholic group Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in Peru.

Daniels, who has been living in the U.S. since 2001, was charged along with three other men “with conspiracy to commit sexual, physical and psychological abuse,” according to Peruvian court documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

Among the men charged is Luis Fernando Figari, the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), as well as Virgilio Levaggi and Daniel Murgui.  

The SCV is a society of apostolic life which was founded in 1971 in Peru, and granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the community.

The community has been under investigation after the publication of a book by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV. In addition to Peru, the community operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, the United States, and Italy.

In February of this year, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that "Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

The report also identified Daniels as a serious offender, accused of abusing at least 12 minors between 1985 and 1997.

The report concluded that "between 1975 and 2000 and once in 2007, five members of Sodalitium, including Figari, sexually abused minors."

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010. In February 2017, the Vatican’s congregation for religious life issued a decree forbidding him from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

According to reports obtained by the Chicago Tribune, Daniels has confirmed his connection with the SCV but has denied any wrongdoing, and the details of his life in the U.S. remain largely unknown.

U.S. officials have said that Daniels has no criminal record or known allegations in the U.S., but that they have established contact with him and will cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Peruvian Congressman Alberto de Belaunde said in a statement released to the Tribune that Daniels took advantage of his proximity to minors during his time in the SCV to abuse them, and “has been silent and has chosen to forget. But the victims do not forget and neither will a country with dignity. In addition to ensuring that justice is served, it is important to ensure that there are no more victims.”

A criminal investigation against the four accused men began in January 2017. Last week, a Peruvian prosecutor requested incarceration for the men while the investigation continues. Peruvian law permits judges to remand suspects of criminal activity to incarceration while they are being investigated, if they are considered flight risks, or a risk to pose grave danger.

Travel restrictions have also been requested for Ricardo Treneman and Oscar Tokumura, two other members of the community.

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