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Archbishop Accuses Former Pastor of Theft

DAYTON, Ohio (CN) — A former priest embezzled parish funds and used them to buy real estate in and around the Dayton area, the archbishop of Cincinnati claims in court.

In the April 22 lawsuit, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr claims that Rev. Earl Simone, 75, embezzled at least $1.9 million by charging "personal expenses on parish credit accounts and [writing] himself (or associated entities/people) unauthorized checks on parish checking accounts." (Parentheses in original.)

Simone, who was pastor of the St. Peter Roman Catholic Church in Huber Heights, Ohio, until last year, then "used some of the converted funds to purchase dozens of parcels of real estate in and around Dayton, under his name and the names of affiliated corporate entities," according to the complaint, which was filed in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

"Simone and his co-conspirators then caused fraudulent journal entries and/or omissions to exist on the books and records of the parish," the 5-page lawsuit states. "That fraud of commission and omission was designed to disguise the financial condition of the parish and the fraud and conversion of funds."

The former pastor pleaded guilty last month to one count of aggravated theft, according to Montgomery County prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. Simone agreed to a five-year prison sentence.

He was also ordered to repay the $1.9 million but, according to Heck's office, "it appears the money has been spent by [Simone] and there are now liens and mortgages on the real estate," which consists of over 30 rental properties, "many of which were being maintained and updated using church funds."

Schnurr, as trustee of the Cincinnati Archdiocese and the members of St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, seeks a judgment against Simone and unnamed defendants for $1.9 million, along with interest, attorney's fees and other damages.

The archbishop is represented by Michael Roberts of Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP in Cincinnati.

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