Tulare priest gets probation for stealing $300,000 from parish

Tulare priest gets probation for stealing $300,000 from parish

Fresno Bishop Armando Ochoa says diocese using “restorative justice” approach for Fr. Ignacio Villafan, who remains on administrative leave

[He will soon be “back on the job” – priestly (and otherwise?) – AQ Tom]


Rev. Ignacio Villafan was sentenced to five years probation for grand theft of funds from St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Tulare.

Catholic priest Ignacio Villafan, 52, was sentenced Wednesday to five years probation for stealing over $300,000 from the Tulare church where he served as the pastor in charge, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office said.

The sentence by Judge Gary Paden is too lenient because Villafan is not going to jail, District Attorney Tim Ward said.

“To think that a person could steal such a large sum and not face incarceration undermines the justice that we in the District Attorney’s Office seek every day,” Ward said.

Bishop Armando Xavier Ochoa of the Diocese of Fresno told the judge that Villafan’s actions betrayed parishioners. But the church is short of priests, so Ochoa said he wants to take a “restorative justice” approach, meaning that Villafan will one day return to ministry but have no access to funds.

Villafan was in charge of St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Tulare from June 1, 2005 to Jan. 21, 2012. After being caught, he was put on paid administrative leave by the diocese and remains on leave.

He wrote checks for his personal daily use worth $195,000, the District Attorney’s Office said. He also gifted church funds to family members. The diocese did an audit and found that more than $300,000 was missing.

Restitution “will take him many, many years to accomplish,” Ochoa said. The bishop also said Villafan’s family members must take some responsibility because they benefited from the crime.

Full story at The Fresno Bee.

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One comment on “Tulare priest gets probation for stealing $300,000 from parish

  1. This crook needed to go to jail ! Absolute nonsense that this thief is allowed to return to the Church as a priest! No contact with money ? I say Bull Crap 💩! That is what they said about child molesters when they let them walk with minimal punishment! It was found they went right back and access to children without anyone monitoring them ! Same with thieves ! In a parish priests have access to money because everyone trusts them ! A few years back I helped a major worldwide Order with their finances ! The bursar , a great priest, and I spent weeks at my house going over their world wide finances and one night we were talking about some problematic accounts, and he said “ you know , the biggest problem the Church has , is with priests stealing “ ! Nothing has changed ! Unfortunately Priests steal , because they can and there is no real oversight! In our case we had the ability to audit and monitor any troublesome accounts, because we had the full backing of the head of the order who also was a great priest! For example, look at Wuerl! He lives in a 40 million dollar Penthouse on Embassy Row in DC in one of the poorest diocese in the country ! How does he just pay for the property taxes, never mind the upkeep! He is skimming no doubt ! Magnify this throughout the world 🌎 and you wonder why they are always begging for more money ! Add the sex abuse charges and you wonder why anyone gives them anything!

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