Lawyer: Vegas priest gambling led to church theft

Lawyer: Vegas priest gambling led to church theft
Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe is seen in an undated photo in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest who acknowledged siphoning $650,000 from the bank accounts of his Las Vegas parish is trying to recover from a compulsive gambling addiction, his lawyer said.

Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe said he took the money over eight years from gift store funds, votive candle donations and the church mission.

He is sorry and wants to make restitution to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Summerlin, his attorney, Margaret Stanish, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a story published Tuesday.

"He's so very remorseful for the hurt he has caused to all who are precious to him," Stanish said.

McAuliffe, 58, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to three federal mail fraud charges. He could face up to 60 years in federal prison and $750,000 in fines at sentencing set for Jan. 6.

Robert Ragan, a friend of McAuliffe, said he met the priest in a gambling addiction treatment program in June and they bonded over their attraction to video poker.

Ragan, 27, said he talked with the priest last week and is optimistic about his recovery.

"He's staying positive about everything," Ragan said. "He's in acceptance, which is a great place to be. All he can do is move forward and make amends."

Stanish said the priest wants to talk about his experience after his case is resolved, in hopes that he can stop gambling from ruining the lives and relationships of others around him.

State courts in Nevada have diversion programs to steer gambling addicts toward intense treatment instead of jail. The federal courts don't have a similar program, but Stanish said she will ask the court for compassion.

Stanish said McAuliffe is concerned about the parishioners he served and St. Elizabeth.

"Believe me, he knows he let them down," she said.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal