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
‘What hurt most during the trial was that the diocese of Palm Beach asked that I be given the maximum sentence of five to 10 years.
‘There was no need for that. One of the men I was in prison with showed me sentencing guidelines, and someone charged with theft of less than $100,000 usually gets probation. I got four years. Where is the justice in that?’
Guinan, who was aged 66 when he was jailed, said his faith was tested.
‘That first night when I sat on my bed, I read passages from the King James Bible,’ he said. ‘It was then I realised I should not indulge in any self-pity.’
At his trial in February 2009, his alleged relationship with Carol Hagen, the book-keeper from his former parish, and his trips with her to ‘Sin City’, Las Vegas made headlines. The court heard that Guinan wrote Hagen checks totalling $43,000 while also using church funds to pay the school fees of her son.
Guinan said he was still in contact with Hagen but denies they had ever been lovers.
‘They tried to make out that we were a couple and that was just not true,’ he claimed. ‘They even said that her son was mine. Not true. He is from Bolivia and is adopted. How can he be mine? Yes, she came to Las Vegas, but so did her son.
‘His father lived in Las Vegas, so he was visiting him. That was never mentioned in court. People saw what they wanted to see.’
He also denies that he paid for numerous trips to Vegas with Church funds.
‘I used to like playing the slot machines,’ he said. ‘One time I ended up winning $1,000, so I started playing the $5 machines. By the end of the night I was up $11,000. That was my own money. When I went to the casinos I was always ahead.’
He said because he was a frequent visitor to the casinos, he received complimentary accommodation. He admitted that he liked gambling.
‘I’m Irish, I grew up with the horses,’ he said. ‘It was a hobby I liked.’
Guinan insisted that he got ‘caught up in the mess’ left by Fr Skehan who, prosecutors said, established a slush fund that contained more than $3m.
According to the Irish Mail on Sunday, which asked him if he stole money from St Vincent’s, Guinan offered a lengthy explanation that blamed the book-keeping procedures.
In 2011, an appeal against his prison sentence was rejected. The court also rejected his plea that the prosecution was an ‘excessive entanglement with religion’ in violation of the US Constitution and the Florida Constitution.
However, Guinan insists that the matter should have been dealt with by Church chiefs. It was his colleagues in the diocese of Palm Beach who alerted police after discovering just how much money was gone.
‘There was no need for it to go to court. The church could have dealt with the matter internally,’ he said.
Guinan said he would like to return to Ireland to see his family as soon as authorities have returned his Irish and US passports.
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