Priest Removed From Ministry Amid Federal Investigation Into Alleged Cancer Fraud Scheme

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

A Mississippi diocese removed a priest from ministry who is under federal investigation into his allegedly fraudulent scheme to raise money by claiming he had cancer.

St. Joseph Catholic Church of Jackson, Mississippi, reportedly announced the priest’s removal from ministry on Sunday. Federal prosecutors argue that the priest defrauded parishioners of thousands of dollars in donations to a GoFundMe account for treatment for a rare form of cancer, when he actually had HIV. Diocesan spokeswoman Maureen Smith cited the priest’s multiple reassignments throughout Mississippi as the reason for his dismissal from ministry. (RELATED: Teacher Claims Catholic School Fired Her For Being Pregnant While Unmarried)

The court affidavit also mentioned that the priest raised funds, ostensibly for a chapel and orphanage in Mexico, which he reportedly used for personal expenses.

Cancer Treatment (Shutterstock/ napocska)

Cancer Treatment (Shutterstock/ napocska)

The priest reportedly began claiming that he had Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia lymphoma in 2014 after he went to the hospital for breathing trouble. Authorities claim that he told parishioners that he was traveling to Canada for treatment and that parishioners donated thousands of dollars to a GoFundMe account for that purpose.

A confidential source told authorities that the priest was not diagnosed with cancer, but was diagnosed with HIV and that the place where he traveled for treatment was the Southdown Institute of Toronto, which the affidavit said “was founded specifically to address the needs of religious and clergy around mental health and addiction,” according to The Associated Press.

No formal charges have been filed against the priest.

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