Pastor admits to swindling $432G from White Plains church

| October 21, 2009

The Rev. Patrick Dunne could have been sent to state prison for 15 years had he been convicted at trial for stealing $432,000 from his church in White Plains.

Instead, he agreed to a plea bargain and won't serve any more than six months in the county jail.

Dunne, the 65-year-old former pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, pleaded guilty Tuesday to the top count against him, second-degree grand larceny, in Westchester County Court. The felony charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

But in exchange for his plea, Dunne will be sentenced to "shock" probation, meaning he will serve five years' probation with some jail time, plus be ordered to complete community service. He will learn how much jail time he will serve Jan. 12.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, expressed gratitude that the Westchester County District Attorney's Office and the court handled the case in a "sensitive way." He called the guilty plea a "necessary step" in a "sad and painful period" for the church, the archdiocese and Dunne.

"We pray that it also marks a new beginning for all who may have been hurt by this matter," he wrote in an e-mail.

Westchester Judge Jeffrey A. Cohen said he accepted the plea bargain only because the victim – meaning the church – was "made whole."

The archdiocese's insurance company reimbursed the church for the missing $432,000, Zwilling said.

Cohen told Dunne that he would be under a court order to pay restitution, which Zwilling said would go to the insurance company, not the archdiocese.

Dunne, who had led the church on Mamaroneck Avenue since 1991, has been suspended since last year and can no longer function as a priest, Zwilling said. He cannot become a pastor in another Catholic church without permission from the archdiocese, Zwilling added.

Richard Ferrante, Dunne's attorney, would not say how his client planned to repay the money he stole. He said Dunne has completed an inpatient-treatment program for his gambling addiction and is undergoing outpatient treatment.

Dunne used the money – including donations intended for Hurricane Katrina victims – for personal expenses and recreation, including gambling, from 2002 to 2008. During that time, the church got a new rectory and parish center hall as part of an expansion, for which parishioners contributed nearly $3 million.

An investigation began when staff members at Our Lady of Sorrows noticed in 2008 that undocumented checks were being cashed on church accounts. According to the District Attorney's Office, Dunne wrote and endorsed checks to himself and to "cash" and deliberately concealed the books and records relating to the parish development account.

The money that was stolen had been donated by parishioners to different fundraising efforts by the church, such as the building fund, a collection for Katrina victims and the weekly offering used for general church expenses. It was also taken from an account that had been set up to pay clergy members who came to the church to celebrate Mass, authorities said.

Tags: , ,

Category: Church Security

Comments are closed.