Sunday, October 28, 2007

Priest Admits Stealing From Parishes

A retired Roman Catholic priest who prosecutors said stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from two rural parishes pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges.

About a half dozen church members looked on as Rodney L. Rodis, in black-and-white striped prison outfit and shackles, entered his plea to one count each of mail fraud and money laundering.

Rodis, 51, faces up to 40 years in prison and fines at his Feb. 21 sentencing.

Rodis embezzled money from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bumpass and St. Jude Church in Mineral from 2002 until last year, prosecutors said.

He wired at least $515,231 of the money to relatives in his native Philippines to purchase property, authorities said.

Rodis leaned on a cane and showed no emotion before, during or after the hearing.

"I wanted to hear Rodney Rodis admit his guilt," said William Hynes, who attends St. Jude. "And I wanted to see justice done."

Rodis' public defender, Rob Wagner, declined to comment.

According to court records, Rodis used the funds largely for his family, which included a spouse and three biological children. Rodis had concealed his family by living about 50 miles from the churches.

Authorities said Rodis established bank accounts and a post office box, where he directed parishioners to mail contributions.

Then he transferred the checks to his personal account, prosecutors said.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond has said Rodis embezzled more than $600,000 from the central Virginia churches, where he was pastor from 1993 until he retired in May 2006 because of health problems.

A plea agreement filed Friday said the diocese lost at least $400,000; Rodis has agreed to pay at least that much to the diocese.

Diocese lawyer William Etherington would not comment Friday.

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