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LA Cardinal probed over abusive priests

LOS ANGELES, Jan 29 –  The head of the Catholic church in Los Angeles is being investigated in connection with his response to allegations of sex abuse by priests in the region, US media reported.

The Los Angeles Times cited sources familiar with the case as saying federal prosecutors were probing Cardinal Roger M. Mahony to see whether he committed "fraud" by failing to adequately deal with priests suspected of sex abuse.

A Justice Department spokesman in Los Angeles declined to comment on the report when contacted by AFP Wednesday. Mahony’s lawyer J. Michael Hennigan could not be immediately contacted for comment.

The Times report said US Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien was studying whether Mahony may have committed "honest services fraud," a law usually used to prosecute corporate executives accused of wrongdoing.

However Mahony’s lawyer Hennigan was quoted by the Times as saying that federal prosecutors had contacted the archdiocese and requested "information about a number of individual priests, at least two of whom are deceased."

The lawyer also told the Times he had been informed Mahony was not a target of the federal inquiry. "We have been and will continue to be fully cooperative with the investigation," Hennigan said.

Mahony, the Catholic Church’s highest-ranking official in Southern California, was repeatedly accused of covering up abuse allegations in the scandal that erupted nationwide in 2002.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed a record 660-million-dollar payout hundreds of people sexually abused by clergy, the largest settlement to have emerged from the scandal.

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