Man poses as priest, defrauds parishoners

(CNN) – A man accused of posing as a Roman Catholic priest in Los Angeles for years is now facing charges.

Police say the phony priest had officiated masses, confessions, funerals, baptisms since the 1990’s without drawing suspicion. Now, the 59-year-old is suspected of defrauding churchgoers.

Parishioners at St. Ignatius of Loyal Parish of northeast LA are relieved to hear Tuesday, LA police officers arrested their once so-called priest Erwin Mena.

Bayardo Calderon, parishioner said, “Swindled people out of money, I had not heard that he was caught.”

Mena began posing as a priest at the church in January of 2015, according to his affidavit, and for years prior called himself padre, wore the familiar catholic priest white collar while officiating over funerals, weddings, baptisms and taking confessions according to the charges at various area churches.

Robert Hernandez, parishioner said, “The same thing as priests doing what they do to children. I don’t like it.”

Mena is accused of impersonating a priest and swindling various churchgoers out of thousands of dollars since the mid-nineties.

Edwin Duyshart, pastor, St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “He was a real fraud and he was really good at it.”

Mena’s latest alleged scam, last year’s sales of bogus tickets to see the pope in Philadelphia. It’s what spearheaded the investigation that the churches real priest, Father Breshard helped unravel.

“We’ve been working with the police on this. He’s been at many other parishes too and that’s why we kind of didn’t think twice at first when he said he was helping other parishes,” Pastor Duyshart continued.

Parishioners purchased $500 to $1,000 tickets, according to court documents. Church members say they’re thankful they helped pull the sheep’s clothing off a wolf for the sake of others.

Copyright CNN 2016

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