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Frances Guinan enters court for his sentencing, in 2009, in West Palm Beach, Florida Photo by: AP

Florida Irish priest who embezzled for Las Vegas trips wants his collar back

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Frances Guinan enters court for his sentencing, in 2009, in West Palm Beach, Florida Photo by: AP

‘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.

‘Yes, I would like to go home. I hear that Fr Skehan has travelled back and I would like to go as well.

'My Irish passport has expired and I want to get it renewed. It will be nice to go back home.’

He said he wanted to go back to prison to counsel inmates and spread the word of Catholicism.

‘From my time in jail, I realised that more can be done by the Catholic Church. I would like to do some sort of ministering, but if I can depends on others.’

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