A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested for stealing over $117,000 in church funds to buy drugs for his gay sex parties.
Father Francesco Spagnesi, 40, a highly regarded priest from Prato, Italy, has been placed under house arrest while police interview 200 people who reportedly attended his lavish orgies over the past two years.
Spagnesi Used Dating Sites to Invite Guests Home
Spagnesi was caught after police received a tip that his roommate had imported a litre of the "date rape" drug GHB from the Netherlands according to The Times.
The two men are alleged to have used online dating sites to invite guests to their home, where drugs were used and sold. In the raid on Spagnesis's apartment police found bottles that had allegedly been adapted for smoking crack cocaine.
Spagnesi Stole from Parish's Bank Account, Solicited Funds from Parishioners
Spagnesi, a former medical student who dropped out to join the priesthood at the age of 26, raises suspicion when a parish accountant discovered that he had withdrawn around $117,000 from the parish's bank account. This prompted the local bishop to step in and cut off the priest's access to the funds, which police believe he used to buy drugs and host the orgies.
When Spagnesi was no longer able to withdraw money from the church's account, he allegedly began taking money from the collection plate and soliciting money directly from parishioners, who were told he was raising aid for poor families.
The parishioners have now initiated legal action against the priest to reclaim their money. At least two lawsuits for fraud have reached the prosecutor's office, the publication said.
Spagnesi Blames 'Cocaine Vertex' for His Actions, Claims He Is Now HIV Positive
According to Milanese daily Corriere Della Sera, Spagnesi blamed a "cocaine vortex" for his actions and also disclosed that he is HIV positive.
"I don't recognise myself anymore, the cocaine vortex has swallowed me," he said tearfully before lawyers. "The drug made me betray my parishioners, it made me tell lies, it made me take actions that I am ashamed of. Now I'm HIV positive..."
Spagnesi added that he was taking antiretroviral medication which meant he could not transmit HIV. He promised to return the money and sell everything he owns, even his house, to repay the parishioners. "I ask everyone for forgiveness," he said.