Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fake Priest Rips of Detroit Area Catholic Churches

He may call himself "Father Joe" or "Father John", but he's no Roman Catholic priest.

"It's awful. On Easter Sunday when people are so full of hope and gratitude and donating to the community," said Kara Tertzaglividini.

He was polite when he suddenly appeared at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Wyandotte at the conclusion of the Polish spoken mass for the resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. 

He looked like a priest wearing a white collar, but he's a con man.

"He tends to know things about the parish's schedule, the layout of the church, where the collections might be kept. He just asks if he can visit father, and he seems to know how to get where he needs to go," said Joe Kohn with the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The archdiocese is investigating with police and warning that Catholic churches in Detroit, Dearborn and now Wyandotte have been ripped off in these most unholy acts.

"I think it's just terrible. This is a nice church. It's a nice community. It's a shame to see 
people do that," said Dawn Chmiel.

The archdiocese says that legitimate priests have had their wallets, a watch and church collection cash ripped off by the guy, but his largest take may have been after Easter Sunday mass in Wyandotte.

"They have more people come to the church on Easter and Christmas than probably any 
other day of the year," Chmiel said.

"Christmas and on Easter, that's when you're going to have a lot more people in the pews than you usually do have, so that's going to make a big opportunity in terms of how much they can make off with. So, that certainly seemed to be a factor here," Kohn said.

The parishes all describe a Hispanic male in his thirties, 5'0" to 5'3" tall, weighing 130 to 150 pounds with a receding hairline. He was wearing or carrying a white collar.

He's also been seen with a larger, white man in his late fifties or sixties. His height is 6'0" or taller and he weighs between 225 to 235 pounds.

The parishes need to pay bills out of the Sunday collection, but the money is also used for needy families in the community.

"Mount Carmel has done so much to help this community, which really needs help right now. To hear that somebody would prey upon a church is so disheartening," Tertzaglividini said.