MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Philippine immigration authorities say they have arrested an American Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in a remote central town in a case one official described as "shocking and appalling."

Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Thursday the Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, who has been indicted in Ohio on charges of illicit sexual conduct in the Philippines, was arrested in a church in Naval town on the island province of Biliran.

Each count is punishable with up to 30 years in prison, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said at a news conference Thursday morning in Cincinnati.

Federal court records do not show an attorney for Hendricks who could comment on the charges.

An Ohio court had issued a warrant for the arrest of Hendricks, 77, who has been living in the Philippines for 37 years, Sandoval said, adding that the U.S. criminal case stemmed from complaints from Filipino minors who were allegedly victimized in the Philippines.

There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, Philippine Catholic church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration cell.

The suspect allegedly abused victims who served mostly as altar boys in Naval, in 50 counts of molestation in his residence in a case that's "both shocking and appalling," Sandoval said.

Glassman said they believe Hendricks lived with multiple boys and molested victims both alone and with others. Victims told investigators that Hendricks would kiss them, touch their genitals and initiate oral and anal sex. One reported more than 40 sexual encounters with the local parish priest.

"The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them," Sandoval said by telephone. U.S. authorities provided information about the alleged sexual assaults to the Philippine government, she said.

The children were reportedly warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, she said, adding that 10 victims have come forward. Of the five interviewed, the youngest was 7 years old at the start of the abuse.

The U.S. Embassy may revoke Hendricks' passport to help Philippine authorities immediately deport the priest, the immigration bureau said in a statement.

Glassman said that he wants to prosecute the case in Ohio. He added there's reason to believe others have been abused by Hendricks, whose travel records show he returns to the U.S. for several months each year. Glassman said Hendricks has a residence in the Cincinnati area.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati lists Kendricks as a "missionary in Asia" on its website, but later issued a statement saying he "is not, nor has ever been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."