LAFAYETTE — A 23-year-old Lafayette man faces 10 years to life in prison after pleading guilty Friday to federal charges alleging sexual encounters with a 15-year-old he met on Facebook.
Eric Michael Manuel, a former youth minister, also was accused of explicit Internet exchanges with 17 other juveniles.
Manuel was arrested last year after the mother of a 15-year-old Kaplan boy discovered an explicit message on her son’s cellphone.
The boy later admitted Manuel had paid him $50 on one occasion and $80 on another to engage in sexual activity, according to court filings by prosecutors Friday.
Prosecutors said Manuel was arrested after Kaplan Police, using the 15-year-old’s cellphone, sent a text message to Manuel and arranged a meeting.
Prosecutors also allege that Manuel persuaded 17 other boys ages 13 to 16 to send him sexually explicit photographs of themselves after initially making contact through Facebook under the guise of a fictional 14-year-old girl.
Prosecutors said Manuel, while posing as the girl, also would reference himself and “say things like, ‘I have a great guy named Eric Manuel I hang out with. You should hook up with him, too.’ ”
In the allegations related to the 15-year-old Kaplan boy, Manuel pleaded guilty to a federal charge of coercing a minor to engage in criminal sexual acts.
He did not plead guilty to criminal charges related to the other allegations, but those allegations could impact his sentence.
Sentencing is set for Feb. 15, and he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.
Manuel, a 2008 graduate of St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, attended seminary for about one month before he voluntarily withdrew, according to information provided earlier this year by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette.
He had volunteered with youth ministry programs at St. Thomas More and Notre Dame High School in Crowley and participated in youth retreats and a mission trip, according to information from the Diocese.
The Diocese stated at the time of Manuel’s arrest that he had been screened for his work as a volunteer and that a background check revealed no criminal history.
There was no information that Manuel engaged in sexual misconduct in connection with his volunteer service with the church, according to the Diocese.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hill allowed Manuel to remain free pending his sentencing.
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