Most people are familiar with the phrase "caught with your hand in the cookie jar". However, a Catholic priest from Rapid City, South earned himself a sentence in federal prison for being caught with his hand "in the offertory bag". Marcin Stanislaw Garbacz, 42, was sent to prison for 7 years and 9 months on Monday for stealing nearly $260,000 from three parishes in Rapid City.
Garbacz, an ordained priest assigned to the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City, who was convicted in March 2020, was found guilty of fifty counts of Wire Fraud, nine counts of Money Laundering, five counts of Making and Subscribing a False Tax Return, and one count of Transportation of Stolen Money. Along with three years of supervised release, Garbacz has been ordered to pay $258,696.19 in restitution to the three parishes, and $46,008 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
"Parishioners put their faith and trust in this man, and in return, he put their money in his pocket, all in the name of selfishness and greed. Marcin Garbacz not only betrayed the parishioners, he betrayed his fellow priests, so he could carry out his vendetta against the Catholic Church," said US Attorney Ron Parsons, in a statement.
Stealing from Unassuming Parishioners
According to the evidence presented in court, Garbacz conceived his plan to steal money from three parish churches while he was employed as a priest and Chaplin with the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City. The three churches that he targeted were St. Therese the Little Flower, Blessed Sacrament, and Cathedral of our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH). He plotted to steal the offering from the parishioners collected during different services.
The 42-year-old priest would enter these church buildings late in the evening. Then, he would remove and replace the special tamper-proof bank bags in which the weekly collections were stored, and make several same-day deposits amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. In total, Garbacz stole $258,696.19 from the churches between 2012 and 2018. Additionally, he filed falsified tax returns from 2013 through 2017.
Making Merry With Stolen Money
Unlike how numerous Hollywood movies have taught, "Be careful about how you spend the stolen money", Garbacz exercised no caution with his extravagant spending. With the donations stolen from the unassuming parishioners, he used over $250,000 of the money to buy himself more than a dozen gold-plated chalices, a diamond ring worth $10,000, and several bronze statues. In addition to this, he also "gifted" himself a grand piano, Mont Blanc fountain pens, and numerous other items.
The Catholic News Agency reported that prior to his arrest, Garbacz was suspended from his position, supposedly after being caught stealing around $620 from a parish in 2018. Following it, he was convicted of misdemeanor petty theft. The diocese is said to have sent him to a residential treatment program. However, he left and began working as a FedEx driver in Washington.
Upon learning that he was the subject of a federal investigation, Garbacz withdrew $50,500 from his bank account and bought a one-way plane ticket to Poland. Unfortunately for the priest, his luck run out when federal agents arrested him at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in May 2019, moments before his flight departed.
Also Indicted on Sex Crime Charges
The Rapid City Journal reported that the priest was identified as gay. Additionally, it was also reported that during his sentencing, Garbacz apologized to parishioners. However, he held anger against the Diocese of Rapid City and the Catholic Church. He was also upset with the Catholic doctrine which he believed treats homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered."
Along with his financial crimes, Garbacz has also been indicted on federal sex charges. He has been charged with possession of child porn between July 2011 and May 2019. He is alleged to have engaged in sexual acts with a boy below the age of 18 in 2011 while travelling in a foreign country. During the examination of a flash drive in relation to the financial crimes, an FBI agent found child pornography on it. It is believed that at least one of the videos was produced by Garbacz.