Worcester Diocese Places Food Pantry Director William Riley on Leave After Multiple Complaints of Sexual Misconduct

| Mar 17, 2022 | Catholic Church

A well-known advocate for the homeless in Worcester, Massachusetts, William “Billy” Riley, was placed on administrative leave from his job as Director of St. John Church’s Food for the Poor program due to multiple allegations of illegal sexual misconduct. Riley has been the director of the food pantry since 2013 after retiring from the Worcester Country Jail and House of Correction.

According to media reports, the Diocese of Worcester has received at least three recent complaints that Riley sexually abused homeless women by exploiting his position at the food pantry. On March 11, 2022, a complaint was received by the victim’s assistance coordinator for the Worcester Diocese stating Riley coerces vulnerable women from the soup kitchen into sexual encounters in exchange for food and clothes. The Bishop was immediately informed, and Riley was placed on leave pending a third party investigation by the Diocese. This investigation comes years after the Diocese allegedly received other abuse allegations about Riley from women in the Worcester area. The Worcester Police Department stated that Riley is currently under criminal investigation.

According to a statement posted on the Diocese of Worcester’s website, “Billy Riley was placed on administrative leave, and given the seriousness of the allegations, Bishop Robert Joseph McManus authorized hiring an independent third-party investigator by the diocese for a thorough investigation of this complaint.” Bishop McManus declined to comment on the specific allegations received.

According to media reports, the initial complaint to the Diocese was made by a woman who worked as a sex worker until about eight years ago, and now is the CEO of an organization that supports women leaving prostitution. The victim said she first met Riley through the soup kitchen in 2011, at which time she was homeless. She claims that he “took an interest in her” and offered to let her shower at his house. She took him up on his offer as she was homeless and had nothing. The victim said that in exchange for food and a hot shower, Riley demanded sexual favors. Riley told the victim that if she didn’t oblige, she wouldn’t be able to access the soup kitchen anymore. The victim says this went on for three years.

Since the first allegation was received but the Diocese a week ago, two other women have come forward to report similar experiences with Riley between 2014 and 2021. One woman stated that she met Riley after becoming sober and in withdrawal from an opiate addiction, and he offered to help her if she would go on “dates” with him as an escort. The woman explained that she would go to the soup kitchen daily to eat, and while there, Riley would set up a time to meet after he finished work, which always ended at his apartment. He would offer her use of his bathroom and shower and also give her money to perform oral sex on him. The victim explained that she never went to the authorities because he was important to her survival. The third woman told a nearly identical story of Riley coercing her into sexual acts in exchange for assistance with her daily needs.

Anyone who has experienced abuse and exploitation by Billy Riley should contact police or a rape victims’ advocacy group like RAINN.  You may also have legal options against the Diocese of Worcester, and our attorneys are ready to speak with you confidentially.  Please contact us by emailing our managing partner, Adam Horowitz, or calling 888-283-9922.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergies around the country. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help. Contact us at 888-283-9922 or  [email protected] to discuss your options today.