Lost Faith: 10 Worst Church Embezzlement Gambling Schemes

We hear of theft, embezzlement and sinning but we would never expect one from the flock fleeing with money. Surprisingly enough there have been numerous cases of embezzlement within the church and believers say going to prison isn’t the only price they will pay in this life. In the instance of Camillus de Lillis, the soldier who came from a dark background went from gambling his life away to becoming a Saint after a sermon touched his soul. The deadbeat soldier who gambled everything away by the age of 25 changed his world around through faith, giving the world hope for those who have yet to see the light.

Sisters Mary Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang recently made headlines when they were caught embezzling nearly $500,000 from their school and using the money to gamble. They aren’t the first members of faith to do this and it is quite surprising to see just how many have done the same thing in the past. Here are the top ten stories of men and women of faith stealing money to feed their gambling habit.

Nun Las vegas10. Catholic Ottawa Priest Joseph LeClair- $130,000

Canada was in shock learning that one of their own shepherds had left the flock and pleaded guilty to embezzling $130 000 from his church over five years. Father Joseph LeClair admitted to embezzling the money to pay off gambling debt from a local Canadian casino. LeClair had some of his followers show their support at his hearing when he pleaded guilty to the crime. He has since lost his following after an audit was completed and found the priest had more than $20 000 worth of furniture belonging to the church. All the belongings were found in a house outside of Ontario, Canada.

9. Priest Stephen Gemme - $240,000

Priest Stephen Gemme admitted to stealing $240 000 from a parish school. The priest was addicted to gambling and the money to cover his debts. Stephen Gemme was forgiven for his crime and let back into the church however his involvement is being monitored and limited. The priest is not allowed near the books but has since apologized and given his word to make amends for his shameless behaviour by paying back the money he stole from St. Bernadette’s parish and school. Priest Stephen Gemme was sentenced to 5 years probation for his actions.

8. Father John Regan - $300,000

After embezzling $300 000 from the Diocese of Joliet parish, Father John Regan, could have faced up to 30 years in prison.  The long standing priest held the former position as President of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors and then moved on as Vocation Director of the Illinois for a period of 13 years before he was caught embezzling money from his parish to support his gambling habits over a few years. In 2006 John Reagan wasn’t paying back the money stolen as the court had ordered and faced prison time when his probation was in jeopardy due to breech of agreement with the court.

7. Reverend Amer Saka - $500,000

The London reverend, Amer Saka, has been accused of embezzling money from more than twenty people, totalling up to $500 000. The money was meant to help Syrian refuges but instead Amer chose to gamble the charity fund away. He was banned from casinos following a court order which was one of several terms of his bail. The priest has since been charged with fraud. The news travelled far and wide especially affecting London’s Chaldean Church which is mostly made up of Canadian foreigners.

6. Monsignor William Dombrow - $500,000

A Philadelphia priest was found guilty of embezzling more than a half a million dollars to maintain his lavish lifestyle. A part of the embezzled cash went to casinos which Msgr. William Dombrow frequented. The money was meant to go to a home for the elderly; however, the 77 year old priest had other plans. William was convicted of four counts of fraud and the sentencing could be a severe 80 years behind bars. According to the priest’s lawyer, William Dombrow was ashamed of his behaviour and what it did to the church.

5. Sisters Mary Kreuper and Sister Lana Chang - $500,000

The theft of more than $500 000 dollars began when Sister Mary Kreuperand nun Lana Chang became fast friends which progressed to the embezzlement of over $500 000 which was used on trips to casinos and gambling. Sister Mary was the principal at St. James Catholic School where Sister Lana Chang was a teacher. A fraudulent cheque was found which was to be deposited into the elementary school’s bank account, but upon further investigation, the account number was to a different account which no one knew about. As it would turn out, the account in question was used for the two nun’s personal use at casinos. Members of the community were shocked when the revelation of what had occurred was revealed. During the revelation of the incident Sister Mary was under tremendous shock of an incident that killed a 6 year old boy and so the church decided against pressing charges saying she was dealing with the severe aftermath of the incident.

Between the two nuns, it had been a period of 10 years before they were caught out. Both Sister Mary and Sister Lana expressed their deepest apologies asking the parish not to lose faith in them or the church.

4. Priest Don Flavio Gobbo - $620,000

A 48 year old Italian priest was caught embezzling money from his parish in San Vito and Modesto. Don was lucky to walk away with a 2 year suspended sentence after admitting to gambling addiction. The court then ordered don Flavio Gobbo to pay back the stolen money in full and seek therapy and treatment which he claimed he had already sought help and received the treatment he needed to curb his addiction.

3. Catholic Priest Kevin McAuliffe - $750,000

A Catholic priest from Nevada Las Vegas, the biggest casino and gambling hub in the world, has been found guilty on 3 counts of mail fraud. The then 58 year old priest had admitted guilty to embezzling from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church, one of Nevada’s biggest congregations, for an extended period of 8 years. Kevin McAulife’s sentencing could cost him up to 60 years in prison and he would have to pay $750 000 in fines to correct his mistake. The priest was since relieved from his position at the church, and according to his lawyer Margaret Stanish, Kevin McAuliffe is sincerely apologetic for the hurt he caused by his actions.

2. Sister Marie Thornton - $850,000

Otherwise known as Sister Susie, Sister Marie Thornton, blamed childhood demons for her gambling addiction which cost Iona College $850 000. The nun worked as Vice President of Finance at the college which fed into her gambling habit. Sister Marie Thornton was sentenced to community service and was court ordered to pay back less than half of the embezzled cash. The nun’s attorney claimed the reason Sister Susie sent fake invoices to the college because of her childhood past and the demons that influenced her. Sister Susie has since apologized asking for forgives from those that she hurt and those that she loved.

1. Unnamed Swiss Priest - $1,100,000

A Swiss priest was caught taking loans from his parish followers has been forced to resign with immediate effect. The priest was using the money given in good faith to pay off his gambling debt of $1.1 million. When authorities caught wind of the embezzlement the situation worsened when they learned that, rather than seeking professional help, the man in question chose to fly to Russia and attend the World Cup. He is now attending therapy and hopes to restore his good faith.

Last Updated: May 6, 2019