Church Embezzlement Case Histories


The following abbreviated newspaper summaries (only a small fraction of those that reach the media) graphically illustrate what can and does happen in more Christian churches than anyone knows or would care to acknowledge.  If you would like to download this compendium so as to be able to read it at your leisure, CLICK HERE.  The compendium file is in Rich Text Format and should open in any word processing program.


THE NEW YORK TIMES  -  March 10, 2007

 MIAMI, March 9 — One of two Roman Catholic priests accused of stealing and misappropriating as much as $8.6 million donated by parishioners in South Florida sought to end an audit of church finances, complaining to diocesan officials that the financial scrutiny was undignified and a waste of money, according to documents released by prosecutors.  . . . . . .

The diocesan audit eventually reported finding $3 million in off-book investment accounts. Father [name withheld] adopted Father [name withheld] bank accounts and methods, the police said.  Forensic accountants used statistics, including census figures dating from 1963, to extrapolate the amount of tithed money that might have been misappropriated over the years, settling on an estimate of $8.6 million.


CHICAGO TRIBUNE  -  December 15, 2005

BUFFALO GROVE, IL - Over five years, the business manager of a Roman Catholic parish in Buffalo Grove stole more than $600,000 in collections and other church funds to feed a gambling habit that cost at least $1.8 million, authorities said Wednesday.    . . . . .

This was at least the sixth time in the last two years that authorities have filed criminal charges against Chicago-area church personnel over the theft of funds.


CHICAGO TRIBUNE  -  July 28, 2005

CHICAGO -- The former leader of a Southwest Side Roman Catholic parish was sentenced to serve four years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to laundering more than $1 million in pilfered collections.   . . . . .

Providing a factual basis for the guilty plea, Assistant State's Attorney William Delaney said [name withheld] skimmed an average of $2,500 to $3,000 each week while serving as pastor of St. Bede between 1999 and last July. He initially would stash the stolen funds in his bedroom safe, without entering the donations in the church books, Delaney said.



SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The 9 men who have accused defrocked priest, [name withheld] of molesting them when they were boys told a grand jury that [name withheld] would ply them with alcohol, let them drive his sports cars and used other enticements to keep them under his control for years. …………

The sexual abuse case is not the only legal problem for [name withheld]. Last fall, the San Francisco archdiocese filed a lawsuit accusing him of embezzling more than $250,000 donated by nuns and parishioners during his 16-year tenure at the two churches.  Prosecutors had already filed grand theft charges related to the lost funds, accusing him of embezzling church funds to finance a vacation home in Southern Calif. That case is still pending.


THE PRESS DEMOCRAT  January 27, 1999

SANTA ROSA, CA – Even as he was publicly assuring his flock he would deal openly with priestly misconduct, Bishop [name withheld] hushed up the case of a priest who had admitted stealing money from a church and had been accused by 4 men of sexually accosting them. …………..

Some of those involved – a nun, Latino community leaders and Ukiah's former police chief – all raised questions about the bishop's refusal to openly discuss [the priest]. The collection plate theft and allegations of sexual impropriety happened more than 2 years ago but resurfaced recently after [name withheld] a nun at the parish for 20 years, released a series of letters condemning [the bishop] for transferring [the priest] instead of publicly prosecuting him for theft.



PITTSBURGH, PA — A church secretary won't go to jail for helping a priest steal $25,000 from parish contributions, but she must pay the money back to the Catholic congregation in suburban Pittsburgh.

[name withheld] pleaded no contest to one count of criminal conspiracy to commit theft in a deal that would keep her out of jail but require restitution, and ordered to pay $25,000.  Meanwhile, lawyers for the diocese filed motions asking that the court force [name withheld] to return property such as jewelry and clothing to the church. [name withheld] claims the items are her personal property.

Prosecutors said [name withheld] helped Fr. Walter Benz embezzle a fraction of the $1.5 million he allegedly stole over 25 years from collection baskets at two parishes in suburban Pittsburgh.  [name withheld] was the secretary at one of them where Benz was assigned in 1993. They spent the money on fancy cars, antique handguns and gambling trips to Atlantic City, among other items, prosecutors said.  Benz died at a nursing home last year before he could be prosecuted. He was 72.


THE BOSTON GLOBE -  Friday, November 27, 1998

Mercy or revenge in priest’s death?

PITTSBURGH  -  The Rev. [name withheld] .... pastor at two churches for 26 years .... had just confessed to .... skimming the collection plate of $1.35 million....  And on the day authorities showed up at his sickbed to arraign him, [he] slipped into a coma....  He left behind a confession that implicated his female companion.... [the priest] admitted stealing money, estimating that he took a thousand dollars a week for 26 years at both churches, for a rough total of $1.35 million.


The PROVIDENCE JOURNAL  -  December 15, 1998

PROVIDENCE, RI – A priest pleaded no contest to embezzling approximately $90,000 from members of his church over a two-year period starting in 1995.

[the priest] entered no-contest pleas to 3 counts of embezzlement. In exchange for his pleas, [the priest] was given a 5-year sentence, with 2 years to be served in home confinement and 3 years suspended.  The amount of restitution will be determined later. [the priest] will remain free on $25,000 personal recognizance bail until he begins serving his sentence Feb. 15.


The state police were notified of the irregularities by the Diocese of Providence, which had begun its own inquiry into the matter. Several questions remain unanswered, including what he spent the money on and where he will stay.  [the priest] had been pastor of the parish for 17 years. He resigned in 1997, citing health ailments, among them emphysema.

THE COURIER, Findlay, Ohio  -  May 8, 1996

Woman Sentenced To Two Years In Church Theft Case

OTTAWA (AP)  A former church secretary on Tuesday was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing more than $411,000 from a church collection plate to help finance a lavish lifestyle.  [name withheld] also must repay $411,000 to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Kalida.  ..…..  [name withheld] was convicted last month of one count of third-degree felony theft.  After she was convicted, her husband, [name withheld], was charged with one count of receiving stolen property, a second-degree felony…….  [name withheld] was the secretary at St. Michael’s for 19 year.   .……  Hoying [the pastor] said the week after [name withheld] resigned, Sunday collections increased about $1,500.  The diocese then conducted an audit dating to 1990 and discovered that between $1,200 and $1,500 probably had been stolen each week.


FORT MYERS NEWS PRESS  -  Sunday, January 31, 1993

Man who pocketed $240,000 from church collection plates is jailed

DALLAS  -  A man trusted to count daily donations at a Roman Catholic church was sentenced to eight years in prison after he admitted pocketing more than $240,000 from collection plates.  [name withheld], 26, was given the job in 1986 by a former pastor at Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe.  He continued to impress the Rev. Larry Pichard, who made [the employee] the church's evening secretary in 1988.  "Extremely nice.  Polite.  Reserved.  Gentle-hearted," Pichard said.  "I assumed everything was OK.  I was wrong."


LOS ANGELES TIMES  October 23, 1992

Testimony Shows Priest Handled All Donations

Father [name withheld] always insisted on handling the collection money at St. Peter Claver Church in Simi Valley -even at other priests' Masses according to testimony that led to his indictment on embezzlement charges.....  [the priest], 36, who is awaiting a Nov. 2 trial on two counts of grand theft, is accused of embezzling $60,000 in collection money from St. Peter Claver Church and from his previous parish, Sacred Heart Church, in Saticoy .....    An audit by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles showed that donations at both churches dipped noticeably during [the priest’s] tenure, testified auditor Sandra Smith .


NOTE: While the priest was subsequently acquitted at trial, the presiding judge refused his request for custody of the monies seized in connection with his arrest; those monies were instead turned over to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.



THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL  -  Friday, November 9, 1990

Priest indicted in theft of funds from parish

The Rev. [name withheld], former pastor of St. Anthony’s Church in North Providence, was indicted yesterday by a statewide grand jury on charges of stealing $200,000 in parish funds between 1985 and 1988.  "The investigation shows that [the priest] regularly skimmed money from the collections and embezzled funds from several parish accounts," [Atty. Gen. James E.] O'Neil said.

Church worker indicted [same case]

In an unrelated case, the grand jury also indicted [name withheld], 23, of North Providence, an employee of St. Anthony’s in 1987-88, on a charge of embezzling from the parish.  O'Neil said that [the employee] is accused of embezzling $58,000 in parish funds for himself ... [the priest] and [the employee] are not charged with working together.


CHICAGO TRIBUNE  -  January 12, 1990

Priest gets 6 months in jail in church embezzlement case

    OSHKOSH, WIS - A 68-year-old Roman Catholic priest has been sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation on charges he embezzled more than $45,000 from a church where he served as pastor.


Winnebago County Circuit Judge William Carver also ordered [the priest] on Wednesday to perform 200 hours of public service and to repay the church $46,000.  [the priest], former pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Neenah, pleaded no contest Nov. 9 to one count of felony theft and was convicted.  The criminal complaint contended the priest stole $45,686 from donations, collection envelopes and fees collected by the church between 1984 and 1988.


BOSTON GLOBE  -  March 25, 1983


OAKVILLE, Conn.  -  ……….. St Mary Magdalen Church had been unable to pay its bills for several years.  But it wasn’t until this January that Revs. John Lynch and Ralph Colicchio, alarmed at what they said was a discrepancy between the size of the parish and the amount of Sunday donations, asked police to investigate possible skimming from the collection plates…….. [the priests] were not aware of the extent of the loss until they began to count the collection money themselves.  When they did, the receipts jumped from approximately $4,000 a month, as recorded by [name withheld], to $12,000 a month.  [NOTE: this would be a good point at which to test your math skills]

THE MIAMI HERALD (same case)

CONNECTICUT  -  Woman fails to deny church embezzlement

WATERBURY   A Waterbury woman has pleaded no contest to charges that she embezzled $60,000 from her church.  Police charged that [name withheld], 58, had taken the money from St. Mary Magdalen Church between Dec. 1, 1979, and Oct. 1, 1982 while she was counting collection money.  Waterbury  Superior Court Judge Anthony DeMayo accepted [name withheld] plea and found her guilty.