Vegas priest arrives at Texas federal prison

AP News
Posted: Apr 13, 2012 3:09 PM
Vegas priest arrives at Texas federal prison

A Roman Catholic priest from Las Vegas surrendered Friday at a federal prison in Texas to serve his sentence for siphoning $650,000 from his northwest Las Vegas parish to support a video poker and casino gambling habit.

Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe, 59, turned himself in as required at the low-security La Tuna correctional institution in the Texas-New Mexico border town of Anthony, said Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross in Washington, D.C.

McAuliffe was sentenced in January to three years and one month in prison, plus three years of supervised release and $650,000 in restitution after pleading guilty in October to three federal mail fraud charges.

He admitted falsifying financial documents sent in 2008, 2009 and 2010 to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in San Francisco.

McAuliffe, a popular pastor known as Father Kevin, expressed "guilt, shame and self-loathing" for siphoning increasing amounts of money over eight years from votive candle, prayer and gift shop funds at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.

Prosecutor Christina Brown said at sentencing that McAuliffe was able to hide his embezzlement because he was a signatory to financial statements to the Las Vegas diocese and San Francisco archdiocese.

McAuliffe's lawyer, Margaret Stanish, told the judge that McAuliffe had begun making restitution and repaid $13,420 in eight months. Stanish said this week she didn't know how much more had been paid.

The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas said McAuliffe had complete control of parish activities and finances from 2002 to 2010. The parish, with more than 8,000 families in the upscale Summerlin neighborhood, is one of the largest Roman Catholic congregations in Nevada.

Las Vegas diocese administrators say McAuliffe was suspended and stripped of ministerial duties after FBI agents questioned him last May about missing church funds. The congregation wasn't immediately told about the investigation, however, while church officials issued pleas for patience and asked parishioners to drop a letter-writing support campaign.

U.S. District Judge James Mahan told McAuliffe he betrayed people who depended on him. The judge referred to a parish rift, noting that he received 100 letters supporting McAuliffe, but also received a stack of letters saying McAuliffe should be punished.

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The 37-month sentence was midway between a 33-month minimum and 41-month maximum recommended by federal probation officials.

Bishop Joseph Pepe, head of the regional church administration since 2001, was in Rome this week and unavailable for comment, diocese spokeswoman Rachel Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson released a diocese statement saying church administrators increased audits and added financial controls at Las Vegas-area parishes, schools and ministries.

The diocese said it circulated warnings about "the increasing financial pressures people are facing in today's environment, the opportunities for theft as well as the rationalization that occurs in individuals perpetrating such crimes."

The diocese refused Friday to say whether the church was seeking McAuliffe's dismissal as a priest.