Priest's Pillage $Hocker
By Philip Messing, Denise Buffa and Marsha Kranes
New York Post [Queens NY]
October 10, 2003
Some of the $88,000 in cash a Queens priest allegedly skimmed from the collection boxes of a Long Island church was still stuffed in donor envelopes marked with the names of parishioners, police sources said yesterday.
Cops who counted the ungodly haul found in the Rev. John Johnston's Jackson Heights apartment said most of it was in small bills - all swiped from St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Bethpage, where the priest has celebrated Sunday Mass for the past 25 years.
When cops asked Johnston, 64, about the loot, they said he told them, "That's my 401(k) plan."
The priest's alleged plundering, which went undetected for 25 years, is now under investigation by Nassau County police.
Also found in Johnston's apartment was an unlicensed gun, gay porn, and a large collection of Nazi relics, including helmets, daggers, medals, and busts of Hitler and his henchmen, sources said.
City cops discovered the sick stash and learned about the embezzlement Tuesday night when they collared Johnston for allegedly making obscene phone calls to a Brooklyn Catholic school.
Johnston has since told cops his telephone tirades were payback for his having been booted from his long-time teaching post at a New Jersey school, sources said.
They said Johnston claimed he launched his verbal vendetta against the principal of Brooklyn's Bishop Loughlin Memorial HS because he was angry at its former principal, Brother Robert Wickham, now the headmaster of Oratory Preparatory School in Summit, N.J.
Johnston said he blamed Wickham for his forced retirement from Oratory Prep last June for what he was told was inappropriate behavior, sources said.
Sources said they believe Johnston doesn't know Brother Dennis Cronin, the current principal of Bishop Loughlin and the target of his abusive calls.
Johnston pleaded not guilty to harassment charges yesterday in Brooklyn Criminal Court. He was accused of making eight obscene calls to Cronin between July and October.
He was ordered held in $1,000 bail, and directed to have no further contact with Cronin.
He faces arraignment today in Queens on gun-possession and stolen-property charges.
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