No prison time for Catholic reverend who embezzled thousands

A few hours north of Irvine, California, lies the city of Visalia. In early August, a former Catholic reverend received a fairly lax sentence for embezzlement. According to USA Today, on August 1st the court sentenced him to five years of probation with no jail time after pleading guilty to a single felony count of grand theft of personal property. The financial amount he pleaded guilty to embezzling amounted to over $200,000. 

The Tulare County District Attorney asked for a stiffer penalty, but the former reverend will not see any time in jail. The reverend initially submitted his plea in March. However, the church he served at formally removed him from his post back in January of 2012 after a lengthy investigation into the church’s finances. The investigation revealed roughly $300,000 was absent. Prosecutors discovered he had written personal checks out to himself to cash. The checks amounted to nearly $195,000 over the course of many years. The case also revealed he had allegedly given a substantial amount of money to family members. Police formally arrested him in December of 2014. As of this writing, a restitution hearing will take place this upcoming October. 

The California Penal Code notes that grand theft involves embezzling property with a value over $950, and authorities typically prosecute this type of activity as a felony charge. In general, the sentence for an amount such as the former reverend allegedly took would be between six months and three years. A person with a grand theft conviction may have to pay damages over and above the amount taken, as well as fines and other penalties. The court determines this during the restitution hearing, when the alleged victims may present evidence such as bills and receipts showing expenses and damages directly related to the loss of the funds.

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