PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local monsignor entered a guilty plea to four federal wire fraud charges Thursday morning.
Federal prosecutors say Monsignor William Dombrow lived the high life, a priest with fancy taste. There were Caribbean trips, visits to resorts, high-end restaurants, Philly Pops shows, and lots of gambling all over the Tri-State area and beyond.
In the end, this high roller was brought down by his admitted gambling.
“How do you wish to plead to the charges today?” asked Judge Gerald Pappert.
— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) May 4, 2017
Dombrow responded, “I plead guilty, your honor.”
The now suspended monsignor, a former administrator at Villa Saint Joseph in Darby, admitted in federal court he raided $535,000 from a bank account at the Villa – a residence for retired and ill priests. The money from estates and wills was meant for them.
The investigation began after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia got wind of irregular activity with a bank account, one prosecutors say the church had no idea existed.
“In early 2016, Sharon Savings Bank contacted Catholic Human Services to alert them there were large in-flows of cash and a series of withdrawals at Harrah’s Casino that they felt was unusual,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella said in court, describing a lengthy pattern of criminal conduct by the monsignor, connected to federal charges of wire fraud.
In court, the monsignor offered one-word responses to a litany of questions about the decision to plead guilty. Dombrow could realistically spend three years in jail, according to sentencing guidelines.
Defense attorney Coley Reynolds said it’s unclear how they’ll confront the possibility the monsignor could go to prison, but called today Dombrow’s “first step to redemption.”
The 77-year-old priest had the support of family and friends inside the courtroom. Some gasped when the judge scheduled his sentencing for Aug. 15, a holy day in the Catholic faith.