Church Worker Admits Stealing
Ex-Business Manager Took over $600,000
By Barbara Bell
Chicago Tribune [Illinois]
December 8, 2006
A Palatine man who gambled away thousands of dollars belonging to a Buffalo Grove church while working as its business manager will spend a year on work-release in Lake County Jail and make restitution after pleading guilty Thursday to theft in Lake County Circuit Court.
Donato Suffoletto, 69, stole more than $600,000 from St. Mary Catholic Church's collection plates and from a food fund used for the needy, authorities said. He was originally charged with a felony that would have sent him to prison for at least 6 years, but the charge was reduced in a plea deal.
Although Assistant State's Atty. Matthew Chancey asked Judge James Booras to send Suffoletto to prison for 4 years, the judge declined, saying Suffoletto is in poor health. Suffoletto will be released from jail only for medical treatment or a job if he is able to find one. In addition, Suffoletto will be on probation for 4 years.
"It's a grave offense," Booras told Suffoletto. "You stole from a house of worship."
Booras noted that a pre-sentence investigation said Suffoletto was an outgoing man who loved to travel.
"Your liberty will be curtailed," the judge said, adding that Suffoletto will not be allowed to travel for at least a year.
Suffoletto, described as a gambling addict who spent the money he stole at riverboat casinos and on credit card debt, apologized.
"It's been devastating," he said. "I feel really bad."
Chancey said Suffoletto should go to prison because he stole money from people who donated expecting that their donations would go to the poor.
"That's a pretty aggravating detail of this case," Chancey said.
Suffoletto delivered a $270,000 cashier's check to the court Thursday that will go to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. He also agreed to pay $3,000 a month to the archdiocese as part of an agreement reached in a civil lawsuit against him. In total, he owes $646,496 to the archdiocese. Suffoletto sold his house in Palatine and borrowed money from his family to make restitution, authorities said.
Suffoletto was arrested a year ago after an investigation by Buffalo Grove police. A priest at St. Mary's became concerned about the church's Sunday collections and food-certificate account, Chancey said. A forensic accountant compared the church's finances to Suffoletto's bank records and to records from a casino. Suffoletto had worked for 12 years as St. Mary's business manager.
"The defendant was on a regular basis skimming contributions made to the church and putting it into his own account," Chancey said. The money was stolen from January 2000 to May 2005, authorities said.
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