An Irish priest Fr Nicholas King has been formally charged with embezzling more than $50,000 from an elderly parishioner in Florida. The Galway-born clergyman stood down from his job as a pastor in Brevard County near Orlando after he was first arrested by Florida police in September. Now it’s understood police have passed his file onto prosecutors.
Speaking to the local media, Donna Seyferth from Rockledge Police Department alleged the priest lived a lavish lifestyle well “beyond his means” after stealing what is thought to total over $88,000, of which $50,000 is thought to have come from a 79-year-old parishioner of his.
Despite an annual salary of only $28,000, he has three homes, put down a $9,000 deposit on a car, gave $6,000 to a relative and spent $900 at a gourmet chocolate shop she continued.
The 73-year-old clergyman has not lived a life wholly free of controversy and was a noted supporter of the disgraced Fr Francis Guinan who stole from parishioners to fund gambling and his interest in collecting rare coins.
Fr King moved to Florida in the 1966 after completing his education at St Mary’s College in his native Galway, followed by St Patrick’s College in Thurles, Co. Tipperary and All Hallows in Dublin. He described the area in Galway he grew up in as one that, “produced over 70 priests and more than 100 religious sisters because of a powerful missionary tradition. Their example and the high regard that loving service held in the community was a strong incentive to becoming a priest.”
Since arriving in America 50 years ago he’s been based in parishes across central Florida and until his arrest had served his current one near Orlando since 1993. Reflecting on a 50 year career as a priest on the parish’s website he wrote, “Ultimately, it is God who calls people to serve him in whatever capacity he decides. Fortunately for us priests, he sustains us in our mission for which we have to be eternally grateful. What one learns after 50 years is trust in the promise.”
Limerick-born Bishop John Noonan of Orlando said, “The diocese is co-operating with Rockledge Police Department and... Fr King has been removed from ministry pending the outcome of the investigation.”