Florida Irish priest who embezzled for Las Vegas trips wants his collar back
Released from jail he denies mistress allegation and says he is innocent
An Irish priestwho used parish funds for trips to Las Vegas and presents for his mistress has vowed to win his status as a priest back after getting out of prison early.
When Fr Francis Guinan was sentenced to four years in a Florida prison for embezzling the Church's money, he was also defrocked and banned from ever setting foot in his former parish again.
According to the Irish Mail on Sunday, the 69-year-old priest from Birr, Co. Offaly, insists he is innocent. He hopes that if he is given a chance to explain his story during a Church tribunal review, he will have the opportunity be a priest again.
"What people heard in the court when I was jailed was not the whole truth. There was a picture that was painted of me that was not true. All I can hope is that when my case is looked at again, people will learn different facts. I want my side of the story to be heard. How I have been portrayed is not right. I am innocent," he told the Daily Mail.
"In terms of what I actually did, it was nothing as portrayed in the court. It was made out that I had a mistress. That was not true. It was said I gambled money at the Las Vegas casinos.
"Yes, I was there with friends but there were no gambling sprees. Things were said and I never got the chance to properly explain."
In mid-July, Guinan was released from jail after serving three years and seven months of his four-year sentence.
Fr John Skehan, the former priestof St Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach, was also found guilty of embezzlement.
Guinan was charged with the theft of more than $100,000, but police said nearly $8m had been stolen over a 20-year period. However, due to the statutory limitation on crimes in Florida, both men were only charged with money that had gone missing since 2003.
According to the Irish Mail on Sunday, Skehan, who was 81 at the time, pleaded guilty and was given a 14-month prison sentence. Guinan, who had only been at the church 20 months prior to his arrest, pleaded not guilty.
Judge Krista Marx said he was motivated by "unmitigated greed and unmitigated gall."
After his release, Guinan returned to his home, which was bought before he was convicted, in Port St. Lucie on Florida's east coast.
"In prison, every decision is made for you, but on the outside it is up to you," he said.
"That has been [an] adjustment. I was only away for three years and seven months, but so much seems to have changed. I know I have a smartphone with email but don’t ask me how it works. I’m still trying to find out."
Much of his time is now spent in preparing to face a Churchtribunal to plead his case.
‘The Bishop of Palm Beach has agreed that I can appear before a Canonical Procedure. It will be my chance to put my side of the story, one that has not been heard.
‘I do want to clear my name, but I try not to think too far ahead as there could be disappointments. I do feel that I have been betrayed by the Church, as I had given my life over to them.
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