ST. CLOUD -- A former St. Cloud priest has been sentenced to three years and five months in prison after using his position to manipulate a woman he was counseling into sexual acts.

Fifty-four-year-old Anthony Oelrich pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct last November. He was put on administrative leave and suspended of his priestly duties at Christ Church Newman Center after the claims surfaced in December 2017.

Minnesota law prohibits clergy members from engaging in sexual acts with anyone they are counseling spiritually or religiously.

The St. Cloud Police Department began investigating after the woman came forward alleging a number of sexual encounters in late 2013 and early 2014. The woman told investigators she began seeing Father Oelrich for spiritual guidance following a sexually abusive relationship. The abuse came to light during confession in December 2013.

The woman said Oelrich began having her touch him sexually and the counseling sessions shifted into intercourse in the early part of 2014.

The woman said Oelrich was manipulating her into sexual intercourse while he continued to see her for confession during that time.

As part of his sentence, Oelrich must also register as a predatory offender.

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