October 18, 2018
Cops find $63,000 in the ceiling at lavish home of Michigan priest, 67, who embezzled $5million from his parish
July 20, 2018
Jonathan Wehrle, smug big time embezzler
More than $63,000 was found hidden in the ceiling of the home of a Michigan priest who is accused of embezzling more than $5million.
Police searched Reverend Jonathan Wehrle‘s lavish home in Williamston on Tuesday and found dozens of $2,000 bundles of cash totaling $63,392.
Wehrle, 67, was charged with six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more from St. Martha Church in Okemos last year.
Authorities have already seized $1.1million from Wehrle, and church auditors say more than $5million is missing, according to WLNS.
July 12. 2018
It’s not just Christian televangelists who are con men
Ankara (AFP) – Turkish police on Wednesday detained on fraud charges a televangelist notorious for propagating conservative views while surrounded by scantily-clad women he refers to as his “kittens”.
Adnan Oktar, a bizarre and controversial figure who also denies evolution, was detained alongside dozens of mainly female alleged supporters on accusations of fraud, bribery and sexual assault.
Oktar, who critics see as the leader of a cult, gained notoriety for his programmes on the online A9 television channel and had regularly been denounced by Turkey’s religious leaders.
He presented programmes surrounded by scantily-clad and heavily made-up women — who appeared to have had plastic surgery — who he dubbed “kittens”.
In a major crackdown on his group, he was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of a probe by the city’s police financial crimes unit, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
A total of 235 arrest warrants were issued and at least 166 people have been detained so far in helicopter-backed raids in Istanbul, Ankara and also southern Turkey, Anadolu said. NTV television said 100 of those detained are female.
Oktar was caught as he was trying to run away, the Istanbul public prosecutor said in a statement, quoted by the Hurriyet daily. His lawyers were also detained.
He is also accused of “setting up an organisation with the aim of committing crime”, “committing fraud through abuse of religious belief and sentiment”, Anadolu said.
Oktar’s assets were seized, Anadolu said, adding that authorities appointed a trustee to his companies, associations and foundations.
Weapons including guns and rifles were also found during the raids, the agency said.
The head of Turkey’s Diyanet religious affairs agency Ali Erbas said earlier this year that Oktar had “likely lost his mental balance”, prompting a war of words with the televangelist.
Kirbyjon Caldwell – Houston megachurch pastor and spiritual adviser to George W. Bush indicted on13 counts conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering
March 30, 2018
Look here, ol’ people. I stoled yo’ money. It’s mah job.
A prominent Houston pastor and spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush has been indicted on federal charges that he sold millions of dollars in worthless Chinese bonds to elderly and vulnerable investors, according to federal authorities.
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, 64, and Shreveport financial planner Gregory Alan Smith, 55, were charged with 13 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.
Caldwell is accused of using his position as the senior pastor of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church to help lure nearly $3.5 million in investments into historic Chinese bonds that are not recognized by the Chinese government. He and Smith told investors they could see returns as high as 15 times their initial investment, according to the indictment.
December 25, 2017
Ralph Gordon Stair – child rapist, kidnapper and buglar
A 16-year-old teen is being hailed as brave after detailing her account of being raped by a South Carolina religious leader, leading to other women coming forward and him being arrested.
Natosha Lehr described in a since-deleted, heartbreaking YouTube video about she was being forced to attend the church of Pastor Ralph Gordon Stair.
She claimed was sexually assaulted by Stair while working at his compound for five months.
Stair, also known as Brother RG Stair, was arrested by Colleton County sheriff’s deputies on Monday morning on charges including criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, burglary and assault, reported The Post and Courier.
Stair, a radio evangelist who leads the Overcomer Ministry in Walterboro, has gained notoriety for his preachings, which are broadcast to radio stations around the world.
Natosha Lehr, 16, described in a YouTube video how she was assaulted numerous times by Pastor Ralph Gordon Stair, 84 , who runs the Overcomer Ministry in Walterboro, South Carolina. Stair was arrested on Monday on charges including criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, burglary and assault
Several women have since accused Stair of sexual assault. In one YouTube video, Stair cups and pats the breast of a 12-year-old girl as members of his church watched
Several women have since accused Stair of sexual assault. In one YouTube video, Stair cups and pats the breast of a 12-year-old girl as members of his church watched.
Stair’s commune sits on 130 acres of land about two miles off of Interstate-95. About 70 residents live in mobile homes or hand-built houses secluded from the road by a line of trees.
The followers give all ‘worldly goods and monies to the Lord,’ according to the ministry’s website, and accept Stair as the ‘last day prophet of God’.
Police began investigating multiple videos posted online in October that are no longer available.
The clips showed Stair inappropriately touching underage girls at his church such as in one where he cups and pats the breast of a 12-year-old girl as members of his church watched.
‘How old are you, hon?’ Stair asks the girl in the video.
When she tells him her age, he adds: ‘Twelve, getting right close to it now’, indicating she is close to the age where she could start having sex.
According to a man narrating the video, who said he is a former member of the church, that age is 13, reported The Christian Post.
Stair, a radio evangelist whose preachings are broadcast around the world, would allegedly tell the girls he touched: ‘Don’t you wanna please God? This is God’s will. If you love God, you should do this’.
After Lehr uploaded her account, several other women came forward to accuse Stair of sexual assault including mother-and-daughter Pamela and Hannah Brown
Pamela, 44, said she was able to resist Stair’s advances until an April encounter when Stair pressured her into having sex on an outdoor path near the cafeteria. Meanwhile, Hannah, 19, said Stair groped her repeatedly over several years
In the other video, Lehr accused Stair of sexually assaulting her over the course of five months this year.
While Lehr accused the preacher of touching her butt, and lifting her shirt to touch her breasts, she said it wasn’t until the fifth month that Stair took his predatory behavior even further.
‘The fifth month, he asked me to go to the radio room and I didn’t want to go there. I did not,’ she says in the video.
Lehr says Stair began fondling her breast asking her: ‘Do you feel good?’ and then began rubbing her vagina.
The teen told her mother about the incidents but the alleged sexual assaults continued. Lehr confided in her 21-year-old sister, who lives out of state and encouraged her to contact authorities, reported The Post and Courier.
Lehr has since moved to Pennsylvania with relatives and said she was happy to hear about the arrest.
‘Everybody’s happy now,’ she told the newspaper. ‘I hope the whole compound actually shuts down.’
Ohio Catholic priest under investigation for ‘excessive’ inappropriate texting of a minor and misusing church funds kills himself
December 20, 2017
How often does a priest have to send inappropriate texts to a minor before it is ‘excessive’?
The answer, for those of you too stupid to know, is ‘once’.
A Catholic priest in Ohio under investigation for ‘questionable’ communications with a minor and misuse of church funds killed himself Wednesday. Good.
The Catholic Diocese of Columbus said in a statement Thursday that Reverend James Csaszar killed himself while visiting Chicago.
Csaszar was pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in the Columbus suburb of New Albany.
The diocese’s statement says Csaszar was placed on administrative leave November 7 when officials learned of ‘excessive and questionable’ text and phone communications with a minor.
It’s not clear the age of the minor or if they were male or female.
December 7, 2017
A Roman Catholic priest who sexually abused children at an abbey school which became one of Britain’s most notorious dens of paedophilia is set to die behind bars.
Andrew Soper, 74, raped and groped pupils at St Benedict’s School in Ealing in the 1970s and 80s and used £182,000 from his Vatican bank account to flee to Albania when victims came forward decades later.
Former headmaster father David Pearce and former maths teacher John Maestri had been jailed for abusing children at the £12,000-a-year private school.
Soper flew to the UK to be interviewed by police about the claims in July 2004, June 2009 and September 2010, and was allowed to return to Rome, Italy, on police bail until 11 March 2011.
Andrew Soper has been found guilty of a catalogue of sex offences +6
Soper, pictured, is a former headteacher at St Benedict’s Catholic School in Ealing +6
Andrew Soper, left and right, has been found guilty of a catalogue of sex offences against young boys at the Catholic school he is a former headteacher at
Seven days before Soper was due to attend a police station in the UK, he flew to Kosovo, Albania, with Euro 204,000 withdrawn from his Vatican bank account.
Today Soper was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault, one count of indecency with a child, 10 counts of indecent assault on boys under 16 and six counts of indecent assault on boys under 18 following an Old Bailey trial.
He showed no emotion as the jury convicted him of each charge by a majority of 10-to-two after deliberating for 14 hours.
Judge Anthony Bate is expected to adjourn sentence until a later date.
Singleton is stunned when her Tinder match brags how women…
Soper, himself a former headmaster, got a sexual thrill from caning young boys and ‘cunningly’ used corporal punishment as an excuse to pull down their trousers and act on his perverted desires.
The ‘manipulative’, ‘perverted’ and ‘sadistic’ former monk – also known as Father Lawrence Soper – pulled up his robes to rape one 12-year-old pupil over a desk in his office and warned the boy he could be expelled if he ever told his parents.
His ten victims, who have been plagued by mental health problems after he abused them between September 1972 and July 1983, were initially afraid to speak out because their families viewed Catholic priests with ‘deep respect’.
They came forward after Soper resigned as abbot and went to live at the Benedictine headquarters at Collegio Sant’Anselmo in Rome in 2000.
He was highly regarded as a religious scholar in the Vatican and his views on the catholic church were widely sought.
One victim had described how he had a mental breakdown when police told him there was insufficient evidence to pursue his claims after interviews in 2004 and 2007.
Soper was described as ‘sadistic, perverted and manipulative’ monk who ‘got a sexual thrill from caning young boys’. +6
The priest will be sentenced at a later date +6
Soper, left and right, was described as ‘sadistic, perverted and manipulative’ monk who ‘got a sexual thrill from caning young boys’. He will be sentenced at a later date
The abuse took place between September 1972 and July 1983 while Soper was headmaster at St Benedict’s School in Ealing +6
The abuse took place between September 1972 and July 1983 while Soper was headmaster at St Benedict’s School in Ealing
The man recalled Soper performing oral sex on him and trying to kiss him while he was asleep on the top of a bunk-bed on a school cycling holiday.
He said he didn’t come forward earlier because ‘no one would have believed you’.
‘I would have had the s**t beaten out of me by my father because he’s a devout Catholic,’ he added.
‘Who’s going to believe a 13/14-year-old boy against a priest?
‘I’m so screwed up by it all the thought of doing a life sentence for murder didn’t bother me.
‘I would just sit and rot in a prison cell and not give a s***.’
Another victim said he believed Maestri was running a paedophile ring at the school.
‘When I speak of a paedophile ring, [I say] that there were school masters, lay or clerical, who were or have been convicted of the sexual abuse of children,’ he explained.
‘Therefore it’s reasonable to believe that something like a paedophile ring was operating at St Benedict’s school.
‘I believe that the Benedictine Order should answer for the serial abuse that has gone on in its educational establishments for the last few decades.’
The conviction comes a year after the school’s former deputy head Peter Allott, pictured, was jailed after ‘getting hooked on child pornography’ +6
The conviction comes a year after the school’s former deputy head Peter Allott, pictured, was jailed after ‘getting hooked on child pornography’
A third victim described the school environment as ‘poisonous’ and said: ‘You don’t really understand what was going on.
‘It was a horrible place to be and I think you came to the point when most people just said this is a hard part of my life and I want to get through it. It was a dictatorship.’
The court heard pupils were caned, beaten with jocari bats and forced to do severe manual labour such as moving logs until they dropped.
Soper claimed he fled to Kosovo out of ‘stupidity and cowardice’ and told jurors: ‘If you want to destroy a priest, all you have to do is make an accusation of the sort against me.’
His defence barrister Jane Humphryes, QC, suggested his accusers were bitter ‘professional victims’ and fantasists and told one he was determined to ‘squash’ St Benedict’s and become a core participant in the IICSA.
Soper has been expelled from the monastery of St Benedict of Ealing for ‘scandalous behaviour’ but is still a priest.
The child abuser, born Andrew Charles Kingston Soper, entered the monastery at Ealing Abbey and became a Benedictine Monk after a short career in banking in 1964.
He took the name Laurence when he was ordained as a priest in 1970 and became a teacher at St Benedict’s in two years later, eventually rising to become head of the Middle School from 1977-1983.
Soper also acted as the school’s bursar and took control of financial matters until 1991.
He occupied the ‘very senior position’ of Abbot of Ealing Abbey from 1991 until he resigned and moved to the Vatican in 2000.
St Benedict’s paid one former pupil £135,000 to settle a sex abuse claim against Soper out of court in 2010, while another one was paid £5,900 after launching a civil claim.
THE LEADING CATHOLIC SCHOOL WITH A ‘TERRIBLE LEGACY’
St Benedict’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading Catholic schools has been blighted by a ‘terrible legacy’ of sex abuse by paedophile priests.
Soper is one of seven senior figures either convicted or accused of preying on pupils at the £15,000-a-year private school during the last 25 years.
Former headmaster Christopher Cleugh admitted the school ‘could have, and should have, done more’ to protect victims following a damning 2011 inquiry which concluded that Ealing Abbey monks had to lose their control of the school.
TIMELINE OF ALLEGATIONS AND CONVICTIONS:
1992: The junior school’s former headmaster Father David Pearce is accused of sexually abusing a boy, but police take no further action.
2001: Former abbot Rev Dom Martin Shipperlee receives complaint about Pearce and makes police aware of it.
2003: Former middle school master John Maestri admits three counts of indecent assault against two pupils between 1980 and 1984.
2005: Maestri pleads guilty to another count of indecent assault relating to a sex attack in 1982.
2006: The High Court awards damages to one of Pearce’s victims.
2007: Rev Shipperlee allows Pearce to return to Ealing Abbey as bursar. Pearce sexually assaults a child within months.
2007: Father Stanislaus Hobbs, part of St Benedict’s middle school staff between 1969-1984, stands trial for one count of indecent assault in 1984 but is cleared by a jury.
2008: Former middle school headmaster Father Anthony Gee is accused of caning a boy on his bare buttocks but no further action is taken.
2009: Father David Pearce is charged with 22 counts of indecent assault against six boys between 1975 and 2007 – prosecutors accepted his guilty pleas to 11 of the charges.
2009: Maestri admits one count of indecent assault between 1979 and 1981.
2010: Father Gregory Chillman is accused of one indecent assault between 1975-76, but no further action was taken.
2010: Two female pupils at another school complain about Father Chillman’s ‘inappropriate’ behaviour in 2004 and he is later put on restricted ministry and barred from access to children.
2010: St Benedict’s teacher John Skelton is convicted of indecent assaults against two pupils in 1983.
2011: Pearce is charged with four counts of indecent assault against another boy between 1977 and 1978, but he was cleared following a trial.
2011: Maestri is charged with three counts of indecent assault against another former pupil but is cleared by a jury.
2011: Former headmaster Christopher Cleugh apologises for ‘terrible legacy’ of sex abuse following damning inquiry by Lord Carlile.
2011: Father Andrew Soper withdraws £182,000 from his Vatican bank account and flies to Albania while on bail for sex offences against pupils.
2016: Deputy head of St Benedict’s Peter Allott, 37, is jailed for ‘getting hooked on child pornography’ and taking part in chemsex ‘paedophile sex parties’
2017: Soper convicted of 19 sex attacks on pupils at St Benedict’s in the 1970s and 1980s following an Old Bailey trial.
Prosecutor Gillian Etherton, QC, said: ‘Whilst this trial concerns Andrew Soper, you should know that St Benedict’s School and Ealing Abbey have in the past come under critical scrutiny.
‘There have been numerous large scale inquiries into the failure of the school to protect and safeguard children in their care.
‘There have been investigations, against both monks and teachers, and this has led to a number of prosecutions.
‘It is fair to say that over a number of decades, the 1960s to 1990s, both violence and sexual abuse by the adults in charge against the young pupils was prevalent at the school.’
One victim claimed the Benedictine order which ran the school was responsible for covering up a ring of abuse involving many teachers and pupils who were too ashamed to come forward.
Comic Julian Clary, who won a scholarship to St Benedict’s in the 1970s, described Pearce ‘touring all the school toilets in the hope of finding who knows what’.
He says he was never personally sexually abused, but is expected to give evidence about the school at the upcoming independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA).
A 2011 inquiry led by Lord Alexander Carlile said Ealing Abbey monks must lose control of St Benedict’s, prompting the school’s then headmaster Christopher Cleugh to apologise for its ‘terrible legacy’ of sexual abuse.
Pearce, a twisted pervert described as a ‘devil in a dog collar’, was jailed for eight years in 2009 after pleading guilty to a 10 indecent assaults and one sexual assault on five boys at the school between 1972 and 2008.
Maestri, previously St Benedict’s ‘master of discipline’, was jailed for 30 months in 2003 after pleading guilty to three counts of indecently assaulting schoolboys under 16 between 1980 and 1984.
The sex offender was let off with a community order two years later after admitting indecently assaulting another boy under 14 between 1982 and 1983.
Maestri was spared jail again and given a two-year sentence suspended for two years for indecently assaulting a boy under 14 when another victim emerged in 2009.
Last year ‘respected’ former deputy head Peter Allott was jailed for 33 months after it was revealed he spent £600 a week on Class A drugs and attended chemsex child porn parties with paedophiles he met on Grindr.
The depraved teacher pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent photos of children, one count of possessing extreme pornography, one count of sharing indecent photos of children and one of possessing a Class A substance at Blackfriars Crown Court.
November 11. 2017
And you wonder why the Vatican is soft on financial corruption and priestly homosexual molestation and rape.
A bombshell book has claimed Vatican priests had sex with boys while popes had multi-million dollar accounts.
Gianluigi Nuzzi’s ‘Original Sin’ alleges a host of Catholic sins, including gay sex in the Vatican’s youth seminary.
The book also reproduces documents from the Vatican’s scandal-marred bank, showing multi-million-dollar accounts in the names of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II and their private secretaries.
It claims that hidden powers in the Vatican were blocking the reforms of Pope Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI.
Nuzzi said his lawyers had hand-delivered a copy of his book to the Vatican’s criminal prosecutor, saying at least one of the Vatican’s seminarians was a minor at the time of the alleged gay sex escapades.
The book also delves into the 1983 disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee.
It gathers together years of exposes into the gay subculture of the Vatican.
The new claims concern the Vatican’s St. Pius X pre-seminary for middle and high schoolers who are considering a possible vocation to the priesthood.
Nuzzi reproduces a letter and testimony from a gay ex-seminarian who recounted how an adult, now a priest, used to come into his dorm room and have oral sex with his roommate.
The book reproduces a 2014 letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the ex-seminarian, saying it had determined that no sexual abuse of a minor had occurred but that it was referring the case to the Vatican’s office for clergy.
Nuzzi told reporters today that the roommate was indeed younger than 18 when the encounters began. Neither the roommate nor the priest were identified.
The author and fellow journalist Emmanuele Fittipaldi were put on trial in a Vatican court in 2015 after both published books based on leaked documents that exposed greed, mismanagement and corruption at the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
In July 2016, after an eight-month trial, the Vatican’s criminal court declared that it had no jurisdiction to prosecute them. This means it gave them a pass because the Vatican criminal court did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute Vatican crimes. Amazing that they think anyone would believe their bullshit.
The court did, however, convict two other people for conspiring to leak the documents, and absolved a third.
October 17, 2017
Oh, no. This food is terrible. I’m gonna hurl!
“I warned you but you didn’t listen.”
Jim Bakker has had it with his critics.
The disgraced televangelist is demanding that “mean people in America” who make fun of him stop watching his show, which is essentially an infomercial for his doomsday food mixed with predictions about an impending apocalypse.
He’s warning that there will be dire consequences for those who continue to watch and mock.
“If you don’t want to hear it, just shut me off,” he said in a clip from Friday’s show posted online by Right Wing Watch. “Especially you folks that monitor me every day to try to destroy me. Just go away. You don’t have to be there. You don’t have to hear it.”
Then he fired off his warning:
“One day, you’re going to shake your fist in God’s face. And you’re going to say, ‘God, why didn’t you warn me?’ He’s gonna say, ‘You sat there and you made fun of Jim Bakker all those years. I warned you, but you didn’t listen.’”
We are trembling with fear. Really, Jim, just fucking trembling.
Bakker was a staple of the 1980s televangelist circuit, building a Christian TV empire worth $180 million. But it all came crumbling down when he resigned in shame after a sex scandal and eventually served four years in prison for fraud.
Today, he hawks survivalist food and other prepper supplies to help Christians survive an upcoming “tribulation” period that will supposedly last for several years.
Go fuck yourself, Jim Bakker. We’re going to continue watching you and laughing at your idiocy, your awful food and your imaginary friend in the sky.
September 26, 2017
“God wants you to defraud the government as long as it puts money in my pocket,” says Jane Whaley.
SPINDALE, North Carolina (AP) — When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.
To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue tithing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”
Fields and 10 other former congregants told The Associated Press that they and dozens of employees who were church members filed bogus claims at Word of Faith Fellowship leaders’ direction, and said they had been interviewed at length about the false claims by investigators with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
September 20. 2017
Saul Kassin, lying and cheating his way to the top
If the allegations turn out to be true, it will not the first time that Chief Rabbinate qualifications have been fraudulently obtained for the purposes of career advancement.
Rabbi Saul Kassin (C), the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y.,is one of the more than 40 people to be arrested in a federal investigation of public corruption and international money laundering, in Newark, N.J..
Four rabbis were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying documents, and impersonation, in connection to unlawful practices they allegedly employed in applying for municipal chief rabbi positions.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the rabbis ran or are running for the chief rabbi jobs in the cities of Nesher, Pardess Hanna, Lod and Beit Shemesh. The police have not released the names of the rabbis who were arrested.
According to the police, the rabbis were arrested on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining qualification certificates that would enable them to stand for municipal chief rabbi positions.
Only rabbis who have passed ordination exams on a higher level and more exacting than the standard ordination tests are able to serve as municipal chief rabbis.
The police stated that the four rabbis in question are each suspected of one or some of the following offenses: obtaining an ordination certificate fraudulently, without having taken the exams; falsifying the registration of test scores; sending someone else to take the exams for them; making contact with the exam marker to try to persuade him to mark their papers more leniently.
Police personnel from the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit arrested the four men Tuesday morning and conducted searches of their homes for documents tying them to their alleged crimes.
The police emphasized that the Chief Rabbinate had cooperated throughout the investigation, and only the suspects themselves were under investigation.
Appropriately named Profiti (above) and his partner, Massimo Spina, screwed the Children’s Hospital under their supervision out of at least $850,000. The children probably didn’t need that much health care anyway, Right?
With the names Massimo and Profiti maybe someone should have seen this coming.
September 5, 2017
Two former officials of the papally-sponsored pediatric hospital Bambino Gesù have been charged by Vatican prosecutors with misappropriation of funds over an outlay of almost $500,000 to remodel a Vatican apartment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Secretary of State under Pope Benedict XVI, with the contract going to a company owned by a Bertone friend. Bertone himself does not face any charges.
In what may be seen as a step forward for Pope Francis’s press for financial reform, Vatican prosecutors on Thursday announced indictments under its criminal law against two former officials of the papally-sponsored pediatric hospital Bambino Gesù for misappropriation of funds.
The two Italian laymen charged, Giuseppe Profiti and Massimo Spina, are both former members of a foundation that oversees the famed children’s hospital, located a stone’s throw away from the Vatican and immediately adjacent to the Pontifical North American College, the residence for American seminarians in Rome. Profiti was the president of the foundation, Spina its treasurer.
According to the information released Thursday by the Holy See Press Office, Profiti and Spina are charged with illicitly using funds meant for Bambino Gesù, and thus ultimately meant for the care of sick children, to profit a Rome-based construction company called Castelli Re, run at the time by another Italian financier named Gianantonio Bandera.
The alleged misappropriation took place in 2014, meaning the charge is effectively three years old.
Specifically, the indictment states that close to $500,000 of the foundation’s money was paid to Bandera’s company to perform upgrades on a Vatican apartment belonging to Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the former Secretary of State under emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and a long-standing friend of Bandera.
There’s no suggestion in the indictment, however, of charges against Bertone himself, now 82.
The Vatican also announced Thursday that the head of its criminal tribunal has empaneled a three-judge body to hear the case against Profiti and Spina, with its first hearing set for July 18 at 10:00 a.m. Rome time – and, if they fail to appear, the statement said both men will be tried in absentia. Their lawyers had been given until July 11 to submit defense materials to the court.
Because both Profiti and Spina are Italian citizens and not clergy, they could dispute the Vatican court’s jurisdiction. In July 2016, a similar court in the “Vatileaks 2.0” scandal acquitted two lay Italian journalists for lack of jurisdiction, although it did convict Italian lay woman Francesca Chaouqui, who had been a member of a papal advisory body on financial reform and was accused of leaking confidential documents.
This marks the first time the Vatican publicly has announced an indictment under new measures intended to fight financial money-laundering and financial crime, which began under Benedict XVI and have been strengthened under Francis.
The need to enforce those laws was a key point in the last evaluation of the Vatican performed by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, which is set to update that assessment later this year. Getting a clean bill of health from Moneyval is seen as key to the Vatican’s ability to be on “white lists” of global actors playing by the financial rules, thus avoiding frozen accounts, suspended transactions, and higher transaction fees for perceived risk.
The details of the charges against Profiti and Spina were already well-known in Rome, as the expenditures on Bertone’s apartment have been public and the object of controversy for some time. In an interview last year, Profit defended the outlay, saying it was work that formed part of a “precise project of development.”
In effect, Profiti said, Bambino Gesù had intended to launch a major capital campaign and needed the expanded space in Bertone’s apartment in order to host fundraising receptions. He argued that in the year 2013, such events hosted by Bertone had boosted donations to the hospital from 3 to 5 million Euro annually, and called the remodeling a “marketing” investment.
“Not only was this a legitimate expense, but I’ll tell you, if I found myself in the same situation today, I’d make the same decision again,” Profiti said.
In the end, Bandera’s company not only was paid almost $500,000 by the Bambino Gesù foundation for work on Bertone’s apartment, but also submitted another set of bills for almost $350,000, which were paid by Bertone directly.
When the investigation that culminated in Thursday’s indictment was announced last year, Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke said Bertone himself was not facing review. Although Bertone has consistently denied any wrongdoing, he made a contribution of a little over $170,000 to Bambino Gesù after the publication of a book in late 2015 detailing the expenses for his residence.
Recently, Bambino Gesù was the subject of a reporting series by the Associated Press charging that during Profiti’s tenure, children’s health was put at risk in the pursuit of financial gain. Those accusations were denied by Burke, who called them “false and unjust.”