Teen Church Aide Accused of Sexual Assault in Vermont

An aide with a Florida church group is accused in a lawsuit of molesting "multiple" teenage girls while they were on a field trip in Stowe.

A 15-year-old girl and her parents have sued Anthony B. Ricco, 19, an assistant youth minister with the New Life youth group at the St. Louis Catholic Church in Pinecrest, Fla., according to court papers filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County.

"My information is that three girls were involved up in Vermont, one of whom is my client," said Jeffrey Herman, the Miami lawyer for the alleged victim.

Cindy Maguire, a Vermont deputy attorney general, said Friday she did not know about the Florida case. Lamoille County State's Attorney Joel Page was not available for comment.

Ricco was arrested in Florida in May, a month after the Vermont trip, and pleaded no contest to nine charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, according to Miami court records. The allegations included sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl. The charges were related to incidents that occurred only in Florida.

The alleged victim in the lawsuit told a school counselor about the sexual assault claims after the Stowe trip, said Mary Ross Agosta, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami.

"We applaud her courage for doing that," Agosta said.

The lawsuit said that "as a youth minister and in his role with New Life, Ricco groomed 'Jane Doe' and manipulated her into a sexual relationship with him. He sexually assaulted 'Jane' on numerous occasions in March and April, 2006."

Richard Hersch of Miami, Ricco's attorney, said the victim in the lawsuit has admitted she engaged in consensual sexual relations with Ricco.

"This stuff happens five million times a day in the United States," Hersch said. The allegations of sexual contact with the 13-year-old girl were a "different case with different circumstances. It occurred outside the church setting," he said.