Las Vegas Priest Confesses To Stealing Church Funds For Gambling Addiction
The monsignor of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church, located in Summerlin, Nevada, in the greater Las Vegas area, has pleaded guilty to three counts of federal mail fraud. Kevin McAuliffe was acknowledging siphoning $650,000 from his Church to feed his online gambling addiction, according to a report by the Associated Press.
"He has donated his life to serve his church and others," Margaret Stanish, McAuliffe's attorney said on his behalf, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "He, however, has a gambling addiction. He's so very remorseful for the hurt he has caused to all who are precious to him."
The 58-year old McAuliffe has stepped down from his post as the vicar general for the Las Vegas diocese. The reasons for his leaving the post had not yet been explained to the Church before his guilty plea. He confessed to procuring the money from stealing funds from gift store funds, votive candle donations and the church mission over an eight-year time span.
In speaking to the Review-Journal, McAuliffe's parishioners expressed a willingness to turn the other cheek.
"My heart still goes out to him. It's said that those who have no sin can cast the first stone," said Gloria Devlin, a member of St. Elizabeth's for almost 20 years. "Addiction is an illness. Sometimes we don't understand addictions, and it's easy just to say 'just quit.' But it's not that easy for people with an addiction."
Given his weaknesses, McAuliffe picked a dangerous state to station himself. As the Review-Journal notes, the National Council on Problem Gambling says 1 percent of U.S. adults are pathological gamblers. The rate however jumps to 6 percent for Nevada adults. Pathological gamblers are defined as having broken the law or borrowed money to finance their habit, made failed attempts to quit and experienced depression or suicidal thoughts over losses.
McAuliffe's fraud came to light after federal prosecutors notified the diocese they wanted to investigate the parish's finances back in June, according to the news website catholicculture.org. The investigation soon led back to McAuliffe, who has said he wants to repay all the stolen money to the diocese, even though he hasn't said how he'll do it.
McAuliffe is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6. He faces up to 60 years in federal prison and $750,000 in fines.
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