SAN JOSE, Calif. (CNS) — A priest from the San Jose Diocese has been indicted on federal fraud and tax evasion charges and a priest from the Cincinnati Archdiocese is under investigation for missing parish funds.
Msgr. Hien Minh Nguyen, a priest from the San Jose Diocese was indicted on federal fraud and tax evasion charges for allegedly diverting thousands of dollars from parishioner donations into his own bank account during a three-year period.
The priest, former director of the Vietnamese Catholic Center for the Diocese of San Jose, was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose on bank fraud and tax evasion charges He was charged with 14 counts of bank fraud totaling $19,000 and for not reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in income between 2008 and 2011.
In a statement, San Jose Bishop Patrick J. McGrath said the diocese has been cooperating with federal investigators since October 2012. The priest has been on a leave of absence since December 2013. He was arrested April 18.
Msgr. Nguyen, who was ordained in 1985, served as the diocese’s judicial vicar from 2001 to 2008 before being named pastor of St. Patrick Parish, now called Our Lady of La Vang Parish in San Jose. He served at the parish until 2011 when he took a yearlong sabbatical. He also served as vicar for Vietnamese ministry and was director of the Vietnamese Catholic Center from 2001 to 2011.
Bishop McGrath told The Valley Catholic, San Jose’s diocesan newspaper, that he was saddened by the arrest, noting that Msgr. Nguyen had been a diocesan priest for nearly 30 years and that in his years as pastor of St. Patrick’s, “he paid off previously accrued parish and school debts and created a strong foundation upon which to serve the community.”
The bishop said this was the first time, to his knowledge, that an allegation of this nature had been made against a priest in the diocese. He also wanted to assure diocesan Catholics that the financial health of the parish, school and the Vietnamese Catholic Center is in good shape.
“We feel confident that the controls recommended by our auditors ensure that monies donated to the parish are properly put to use there,” he said. “We will continue our own scrutiny of the parishes’ finances, and certainly learn more with the outcome of the IRS investigation.”
In the Cincinnati Archdiocese, police received reports of missing funds from St. Peter Catholic Church in Huber Heights, Ohio, where Father Earl Simone is pastor. The priest, who has been on medical leave since March, distributed a letter to parishioners April 19 saying he was retiring for medical reasons.
A statement in late March from the archdiocese said it reported allegations of financial irregularities at the parish to the Huber Heights Police Department and the county prosecutor’s office. “The amount of money involved has not yet been determined and may not be for some time,” the statement said.
Archdiocesan officials received an ethics complaint about the parish funds Feb. 11 and conducted an investigation by archdiocesan auditors and an outside auditing firm. The parish staff has been cooperating with the archdiocese, the statement added.
Because the case is under police investigation, the statement noted that the “archdiocese cannot say anything more at this time.”
It also pointed out that the archdiocese has taken steps in recent years to tighten financial controls at its 212 parishes, including the hiring of two full-time parish auditors, adding a confidential fraud hotline to report irregularities, installing a new accounting system and providing parishes with tools to help secure collections.
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As a member of this parish for 35 years, I was shocked and also disappointed with how Father Simone handled the parish’s money. Although I always liked Father Simone, I feel saddened that he will spend his remaining time in prison. I think of him often. It’s all very sad.
I know what Father Earl Simone did was wrong but I will keep him my prayers. But Father Simone has done a lot for St. Peters and for Huber Heights. He brought love and caring to our Church. He also brought love and caring to other Churches in Huber Heights. He was a great priest in my eyes.