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Priest with gambling addiction pleads guilty to stealing $400K from church

Updated: August 3, 2011 6:02PM

A Roman Catholic priest looted more than $400,000 from his Roselle church while he served as pastor, then gambled away much of the stolen cash at riverboat casinos, DuPage County prosecutors said Thursday.

The Rev. John Regan faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to two felony charges for stealing the cash from St. Walter Parish between 2006 and 2008.

But as part of his plea deal with prosecutors, the 47-year-old Regan also is eligible for probation when he is sentenced in August.

Regan, who remains a priest but no longer serves in a parish, said little during his hearing, except to admit to the thefts.

“How do you plead to these two offenses?” Judge John Kinsella asked.

“Guilty,” replied Regan, who remains free on bond until his sentencing.

To hide the thefts, Regan funneled collection plate offerings to a special church account that only he could access — and that no other church leader knew existed, prosecutors said.

“The defendant withdrew cash at ATMs from this account at casinos and also used it for credit card bills,” prosecutor Helen Kapas said in court.

Regan, whose annual salary was about $25,000, also took cash offerings from parishioners and put them in a personal bank account — depositing more than $273,000 between August 2006 and July 2008, she said.

Bank records indicate he withdrew more than $320,000 from the two accounts at ATMs in casinos in Joliet and Elgin, Kapas said.

Though Regan could be placed on probation, Kapas said she “absolutely” will seek a prison term for the priest, as well as $410,000 in restitution.

While Regan pleaded guilty, his attorney disputed prosecutors’ claims about how much the priest stole.

“We may attempt to refute some of these allegations,” defense attorney John Donahue said in court.

Regan was sent by the Joliet diocese to an out-of-state gambling treatment program in 2008 after church officials began investigating St. Walter’s finances.

“It is clear that the loss of parish funds were a direct result of a gambling addiction,” the diocese said in a statement following Regan’s guilty plea.

The diocese repaid the church about $295,000 to cover its losses.

Regan and his attorney declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

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