US diocese sends back Indian priest
North Buffalo: An Indian Catholic priest working in a parish near New York has been sent back to his home country after being caught endorsing checks meant for the church’s outreach program.
Father Suresh Yamarthy had been sent back to India to “face the consequences of his actions,” Father Steve Jekielek, parochial vicar of St. Christopher Catholic Church in Tonawanda, told the parishioners at Mass on November 12.
Tonawanda is a city in Erie County of New York State. The parish comes under Buffalo diocese.
Father Yamarthy had been assigned to St. Christopher for three years starting in June 2016. His last homily on the church’s website was given Oct. 29.
It was the second such incident at the church, following a much larger theft by the church’s former secretary and business manager that was discovered in 2006.
Father Yamarthy’s first assignment in the United States was at St. Mark and St. Rose of Lima parishes in North Buffalo. He served those parishes for less than six months, reports buffalonews.com.
Jekielek made the announcement about Father Yamarthy just before the end of Mass, first saying that he wanted to address the “rumors and innuendo” that parishioners might have heard.
The amount of the checks totaled about US$500, Father Jekielek told the congregation.
Father Yamarthy, who was still listed as a staff member on St. Christopher’s website November 12 afternoon, gave a sermon at the church on Oct. 29.
He made restitution and returned to India after the theft was discovered.
Town of Tonawanda police said they had received only routine calls to the church since then, nothing concerning a possible theft of funds.
George Richert, director of the Diocesan Office of Communications, said he could not answer questions but emailed a statement about the matter.
The statement said, “The staff at St. Christopher’s parish recently learned of a discrepancy involving less than $500. The matter was reported to the Diocese of Buffalo, which immediately conducted an investigation.
“Following the investigation, the individual involved made full restitution.
“After consultation with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, a decision was made not to press charges, and the individual was removed from (his) position and left the Diocese of Buffalo.
“The diocese takes very seriously the responsibility of good stewardship and ensuring the trust of the generous donors. In this case, good work at the parish level helped discover an unfortunate and rare case of mistrust.”
St. Christopher’s parish, at 2660 Niagara Falls Blvd., was rocked by one of the area’s largest embezzlement cases in 2006, when former secretary and business manager Maureen Durrell, then 47, was charged with second-degree grand larceny in the theft of up to $488,000 from the church between September 1998 and February 2005.
Those thefts were discovered during an audit, which also discovered that Durrell had systematically deleted financial data from the church computer. The matter was then turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators said she spent the money on lavish vacations, home improvements and family expenses.
Buffalo is a city in and the seat of Erie County in Western New York. It is New York State’s second most populous city after New York City.