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Pennsylvania priest spent $41K in parish funds on cellphone games, police say

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CNA Staff, Apr 29, 2024 / 12:40 pm (CNA).

A Pennsylvania priest was arrested this week after police say he misused tens of thousands of dollars in parish funds to purchase video games. 

Father Lawrence Kozak has been on administrative leave in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since November 2022. The archdiocese told CNA his leave “followed a review of St. Thomas More Parish’s financial activity by the Archdiocesan Office for Parish Services and Support.” Kozak had previously been pastor at the Pottstown, Pennsylvania, parish. 

The archdiocesan review “resulted in certain expenses and expenditure levels utilizing parish funds being questioned,” the archdiocese said. After placing the priest on leave, the archdiocese “referred the matter to law enforcement.”

Pennsylvania law enforcement arrested Kozak last week in connection with the allegations. A criminal complaint filed by Pennsylvania State Police alleges that Kozak “used credit cards for the purpose of obtaining property or services using parish funds valued at” more than $41,000. 

The complaint revealed that an archdiocesan official observed incorrect coding in the parish’s financial records. The subsequent review revealed “an astronomical amount of Apple transactions” in the parish books. 

According to the parish records, nearly 2,200 transactions were related to a category of spending identified as “gaming.” The total amount spent in that category was just under $41,000. 

Among the games purchased using parish funds were Candy Crush, Pokemon GO, and several “slots” games. 

In an interview with law enforcement as part of the investigation, Kozak said he “didn’t realize when he went past the balance on his Apple Card [that] the charges were kicked over to the parish card,” the complaint said.

The priest “expressed that he’s disappointed that he let it get like this and that there’s no excuse except that he wasn’t paying attention and should have been.”

Law enforcement in 2023 met with the new pastor of the Pottstown parish who said that Kozak had paid the parish roughly $41,000 in “reimbursement” after he was put on leave. 

“I am so sorry that I made this mistake which has been any source of stress for you,” the priest wrote to the pastor at the time.

The investigation concluded that there was “probable cause that [Kozak] misused funds” from the parish.

In a statement to CNA on Monday, Archdiocese of Philadelphia spokesman Ken Gavin said Kozak is facing “felony theft charges” over the controversy.

“The archdiocese and the parish will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as the criminal matter enters its next phase,” Gavin said. 

“Pending the outcome of the criminal prosecution, Father Kozak remains on administrative leave,” he added.


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