Priest accused of stealing $400,000 from church

February 9, 2011 3:35:05 PM PST
A Reading, Pa. priest has been arrested on charges that he allegedly stole more than $400,000 from his own church.

Richard Nachajski surrendered to the Berks County District Attorney's office Wednesday morning. Nachajski served as a priest at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church on Summit Avenue in Reading from 1998 until March 24, 2009.

Authorities said an audit conducted by the diocese of the church's finances revealed a loss of $476,093.

An 18-month investigation was launched in November 2009 with an investigation into records dating back to 2002.

Detectives said Nachajski wrote more than $325,000 in checks made payable to himself and to various financial institutions for credit card payments on purchases he made.

Investigators say instead of going to St Anthony's of Padua, the money went for gourmet food and dining in San Francisco, Jamaica, Aruba, and New York, travel to Thailand, Germany and the British Virgin Islands, tanning clubs, limos and woman's appearal and jewelery for Nachjski's female traveling companion. They said he also used church funds to buy a time share in Mexico for $13,000 and a vehicle for the church, which he kept after he took a leave of absence in March 2009.

Investigators also say they also acquired the wills of two deceased parishioners who left money to the church.

"Detectives determined Richard Nachjski used funds left to church left by two dead parishoners and these monies were transfered to between various accounts that only Richard Nachjski knew about and had access to," Berks County District Attorney John Adams said. The DA says the 64-year-old priest also bought a home with one traveling companion who is now his wife. "The home in New York is titled in his wife's name; however, we discovered that in some of his travels, domestic and international, that those travels were with other companions other than his present wife," Adams said. If convicted, detectives said Nachajski faces a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison, a fine in excess of $40,000, and restitution.

He was released on $25,000 bail.

The diocese says it hopes to recover most of the money through insurance.