A retired priest who once acknowledged in a newspaper interview that he had "fooled around" with boys was arrested and charged Tuesday with rape of a child under 16, prosecutors said.

Law enforcement officials said they received a tip that the Rev. Ronald H. Paquin would flee. A television station showed footage of workers loading furniture into a truck in front of Paquin's residence.

Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke said the charge involved more than 50 incidents with a boy about 12 years old between 1990 and 1992. The assaults allegedly happened in a cemetery and in or near an automobile in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

"Based on information we received today, we acted immediately," Burke said.

The incidents took place while Paquin was associate pastor at St. John's Parish in Haverhill. Complaints in other states and Canada are also being investigated, he said.

Paquin was arrested at his home in Malden and was to be arraigned Wednesday in Haverhill. It wasn't immediately known if he had an attorney.

Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said she had no immediate comment.

The archdiocese removed Paquin from active service at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill in 1990, after allegations surfaced he had molested boys there. The church has paid settlements to at least four of his alleged victims.

In an interview with The Boston Globe in January, Paquin admitted he had molested boys in Methuen and Haverhill. He insisted the abuse stopped when he was sent for treatment in 1990.

Paquin is also accused in a lawsuit of abusing a teenage boy while he was in a treatment center for wayward priests. He has denied the allegations.

In an interview with the Globe, Paquin described his accuser as a "close friend." He said he and the boy had been sexually involved.

Paquin is also named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a 16-year-old boy who died in 1981 in a car accident with the priest.

Paquin had taken the boy, James Francis, and three other teenagers to a camp in New Hampshire. Francis' family alleges Paquin fell asleep at the wheel after a night of sex and alcohol with Francis.