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  • Michael Pope, 34, of Nashua, NH
  • Robert Ricker, 62, of Manchester, NH
  • Mark Tharp, 58, of Manchester, NH
  • James Dippner, 36, of Cherry Hill, N.J.
  • William Ventura, 31, of Chelmsford, Mass.,
  • John Costa, 35, of Manchester, NH
  • Jeffrey Isaac, of Nashua, NH
  • CLARK
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Priest, 7 others held in sex sting

NASHUA – A Catholic priest is one of eight men police arrested Friday evening during a prostitution sting.

Police said they arrested the eight men, including three Nashua residents, for allegedly responding to a Craigslist advertisement by showing up to a local hotel with the intention of paying for sex.

Police arrested:

Michael Pope, 34, of 4 Danforth Road, Nashua.

Robert Ricker, 62, of 90 Kenberma St., Manchester.

Mark Tharp, 58, of 41 Manchester St., Manchester.

James Dippner, 36, of 103 Hedgerow Drive, Cherry Hill, N.J.

John Costa, 35, of 281 Merrimack St., Manchester.

Jeffrey Isaac, 18, of 1 McKean St., Nashua.

William Ventura, 31, of 115 Middlesex St., Chelmsford, Mass.

Thomas Clark, 36, of 36 Harbor Ave., Nashua.

Ventura is a parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Church in Chelmsford, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Boston. Ventura has agreed to take a leave of absence pending the Nashua police investigation, according to the release.

Archdiocese spokesperson Terrence Donilon said Ventura was ordained in 2006 and has worked at the Chelmsford church since then.

Ventura was raised in Derry and attended Pinkerton Academy and Hesser College before attending St. John’s Seminary College, according to a profile in the Archdiocese of Boston’s newspaper, The Pilot. He previously worked at St. Joseph’s Parish in Needham, Mass., according to the profile.

Donilon said the diocese will not comment further on Ventura’s arrest.

Prostitution arrests are rare in Nashua. One was made in 2008 and two in 2009, according to police statistics. Nashua police Capt. Scott Howe said Friday’s arrests don’t indicate a spike in prostitution locally but rather a more concerted effort by police to curb it.

“It’s something we think is occurring, and this is our effort to monitor it and keep it under control and keep our city clean,” he said.

Howe said similar stings will be conducted on a regular basis in the city.

All eight men were charged with a single count of prostitution, a Class A misdemeanor, and released on bail. Ventura will be arraigned at Nashua District Court on April 22, and the rest will be arraigned at the same court on April 23, police said.

The Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail plus fines, police said.

Howe declined to identify which hotel was used for the sting. He said there wasn’t prostitution happening there. It was simply a hotel that agreed to let police conduct the sting there, he said.

Members of the Nashua Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Unit and Narcotics Intelligence Division conducted the sting operation, police said.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.