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Priest stole from church to gamble

22 January 2009

DELRAY BEACH, Florida -- As reported by the Times Online: "Every Sunday, the parishioners of St Vincent Ferrer Catholic church in Florida dropped their dollar notes into the collection plate, confident that the money would go straight into the church.

"And so it did - but not in quite the way they might have expected.

"First, it went into a hiding place in the ceiling tiles of the Delray Beach Church. Then it found its way into an offshore account from where it was used to fund gambling trips to Las Vegas, lavish homes and even a mistress. Over a quarter of a million dollars was spent on a rare coin collection.

"In a Florida court yesterday, Reverend John Skehan, 81, pleaded guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in what prosecutors believe may be the biggest embezzlement case to hit the US Catholic Church. He and his colleague, Rev Francis Guinan, 66, who has denied the charges, were about to go on trial for the theft of nearly $1million between 2001 and 2006 - the time frame covered by the statute of limitations. However, church auditors believe the true amount could be closer to $8 million, stolen over a period of 20 years.

"As well as spending their parishioners' money on interstate gambling trips, Rev Guinan spent much of the funds taking his mistress, a former church book-keeper, on luxury holidays, prosecutors claim. He also paid her credit card bills and her child's school fees..."

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