A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania has been arrested for stealing nearly $100,000 from his church and spending it on a beach house, travel, dining and "men with whom he maintained sexual relationships," according to authorities.
Father Joseph McLoone, 56, was charged with felony theft and related crimes after diverting parish funds into a secret account, the Chester County District Attorney's Office said in a news release.
"Father McLoone held a position of leadership and his parishioners trusted him to properly handle their generous donations to the church," said District Attorney Chief of Staff Charles Gaza. "Father McLoone violated the trust of the members of St. Joseph’s for his own personal gain.”
McLoone took over as pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Downingtown in 2011 after Monsignor William Lynn, the first senior official convicted in the U.S. for covering up a sex abuse scandal, was indicted and incarcerated. That November, McLoone opened a bank account named the "St. Joseph Activity Account" and, over the next six years, diverted about $125,000 in donation checks written to the church into the account, the criminal complaint alleges.
McLoone allegedly used the account to take all of the money collected during the All Souls' celebration each year and convert it into checks written out to himself and others within the church, a total of nearly $40,000.
In addition to the collection money, McLoone "supplemented his income by doubling the stipend he collected for saying each mass and performing weddings and funerals," according to the district attorney's office.
Authorities say McLoone regularly withdrew cash in Ocean City, New Jersey, where he had a vacation home.
He also allegedly gave thousands of dollars to men he "maintained relationships with" through Square, a mobile credit card payment service, and JPay, an app that allows users to send money to inmates. McLoone sent $1,200 to an inmate in a New York correctional facility and $1,720 to other men, all of whom he allegedly met on Grindr, according to court documents obtained by NBC.
The bank account was frozen in February 2018, according to The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and church officials began reviewing the parish's financial records. When questioned about the expenditures, the Archdioceses said McLoone acknowledged that the account violated its financial controls and procedures and that some of the expenditures were for "personal expenses of an inappropriate nature."
He remained on administrative leave in a private residence throughout the investigation until he as resigned pastor, the Archdiocese said.
"These charges are serious and disturbing," the statement read. "The Archdiocese and the parish will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the criminal matter enters its next phase."
McLoone's attorney, Melissa McCafferty, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that her client is innocent.
"The Chester County District Attorney’s Office is overreaching,” she told the newspaper. “They filed these charges based off speculation, conjecture, and innuendo.... They won’t be able to prove them.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Catholic priest Joseph McLoone accused of stealing $100K from church