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Former Reading priest Richard Nachajski sentenced for stealing $400,000 from church

By Ryan Hughes, Reporter, RHughes@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 26 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 28 2012 04:12:06 AM CDT

A former Roman Catholic Priest was taken out of a Berks County courtroom in handcuffs Thursday.

READING, Pa. -

A former Roman Catholic Priest was taken out of court in handcuffs Thursday, convicted of stealing more than $400,000 from his church.

Richard Nachajski was once a beloved man of the cloth, even given the nickname "Bishop of Millmont," but now the former pastor of St. Anthony's of Padua Church in southwest Reading is a convicted felon.

Berks County Judge Scott Keller sentenced him to two to seven years in prison.

"People were hurt to know he lived, in my opinion, this double life," said Marianne Adam, an active member of the church.

Parishioners testified in court they feel betrayed, and stated their parish is still fractured. Nachajski led the church for more than 15 years. People respected him and trusted him, and while he took a vow of poverty, investigators said he lived the high life.

Nachajski pleaded guilty to theft last month. He scammed the system from 1998 to 2009 and hijacked church funds to fuel a lavish lifestyle, said investigators.

According to court documents, he took nearly $500,000 to pay for expensive trips to Thailand, St. Marteen, Florida, New York and even a timeshare in Mexico.

"He not only spent it for his own personal interests, he hid it," said John Haile, a volunteer church accountant who discovered the thefts while going over the books.

The depletion of funds came to light after an audit when Nachajski took a leave of absence in 2009, and another priest took over.

Nachajski left the priesthood soon after and got married. He was a man who preached every Sunday for more than 15 years, "Thou shall not steal." According to parishioners, Nachajski is now the one who has the penance to pay.

"I can honestly say right now that justice has been done," said Dee Stuebner, a parishioner at the church.

The courtroom was packed with parishioners who feel betrayed, but also those who defended the priest and asked the judge to show leniency.

Judge Keller stated Nachajski did not show true remorse.

On top of his sentencing, he must pay $425,000 in restitution.