Guilty plea expected from priest accused of stealing collection plate money

Jun 7 2011 - 3:56pm

CHICAGO -- A Roman Catholic priest accused of stealing more than $300,000 from the collection plates of his Illinois parish to feed his gambling addiction is expected to plead guilty Thursday to theft, a charge that could earn him a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

The Rev. John F. Regan, 47, the former pastor of St. Walter parish, in Roselle, Ill., is expected to enter a blind plea to a single count of theft, his attorney, John Donahue, told DuPage Judge John Kinsella Tuesday.

A blind plea means no sentence has been agreed upon by the prosecutors and defense. Kinsella will sentence Regan at a future hearing. The crime of theft over $100,000 carries a four- to 15-year prison sentence, but a defendant is also eligible for probation.

A jury trial for Regan was scheduled to begin Monday. Regan, who is out of jail on $100,000 bond, wasn't in the Wheaton courtroom today, but he has been present at regular court calls the past two years. Court records show that he had spent 10 days in the county jail after being charged.

According to a February 2009 indictment, Regan took cash and personal check offerings made to the church from August 2006 through July 2008. He placed the funds into an account he opened named "Church of St. Walter Special Needs Account." His name was the only name listed on the account. He then took funds from that account and moved them into his personal account at a different bank.

Then, according to the indictment, he withdrew funds at an ATM machine at riverboat casinos, made personal purchases and made personal credit cards payments.

He was indicted with theft over $100,000 from a place of worship, a continuing financial crimes enterprise and money laundering, which carried a potential prison sentence of up to 30 years.

A priest since 1989, Regan was removed as pastor of the Roselle parish when officials of the Joliet Diocese became aware of the charges in 2009.

(c) 2011, Chicago Tribune.

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