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  DA Says Monsignor Embezzled $260,000

By Glen Martin
San Francisco Chronicle
June 6, 1996

The San Francisco district attorney's office yesterday charged Monsignor Patrick O'Shea, former pastor at St. Cecilia's Parish in San Francisco, with embezzling more than $260,000 from parishioners and the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The 125-page complaint filed yesterday in Municipal Court charges that O'Shea embezzled the intended donations over the course of several years, spending most of the money on himself.

O'Shea's alleged victims included nuns, students and widows. They ranged from St. Mary's Chinese School of San Francisco to Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity to Mary Ann White, whose husband, late San Francisco supervisor Dan White, killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.

O'Shea was a prominent figure in the Archdiocese of San Francisco and was a confidant and personal friend of former Archbishop John Quinn.

He was director of the San Francisco Society of the Propagation of the Faith, which supports the church's missionary work, and once headed an outreach program to the gay community.

The complaint cites eight secret accounts maintained by O'Shea at three banks -- California Savings and Loan Association, World Savings and Loan Association and Security Pacific National Bank. Prosecutors contend that O'Shea maintained a locked mailbox for the accounts and exerted complete control over all the money that flowed to them.

O'Shea used much of the money, prosecutors charge, to purchase and maintain a home in Indian Wells, an upscale community in the California desert.

Cancelled checks recovered by the district attorney's office show O'Shea spent at least $4,149 for pool care, $1,020 for cable television, $652 for air conditioning and $13,117 for gardening at the home.

O'Shea also used embezzled funds to maintain a property at Lake Berryessa, prosecutors said.

The charges against O'Shea are the latest in a series of scandals besetting the Catholic Church in the Bay Area.

Don Sanchez, the district attorney's chief of special prosecutions, said prosecutors became suspicious of O'Shea while investigating the financial affairs of the Rev. Martin Greenlaw last year.

Greenlaw, also a Catholic priest, pleaded guilty in San Francisco Superior Court in April to embezzling approximately $200,000 in church funds.

"We found a number of checks O'Shea had sent to Greenlaw, apparently because he (O'Shea) was under investigation for pedophilia charges and he wanted to hide the money," said Sanchez.

O'Shea transferred more than $30,000 to an account controlled by Greenlaw, the complaint charged.

Sanchez said church officials were stunned when prosecutors presented them with evidence of O'Shea's alleged misdeeds. "They knew nothing about it, and they gave us their fullest cooperation when we showed them what we had," said Sanchez. "We're extremely surprised both at the amount of money that was embezzled and the personal uses to which it was put."

District attorney's spokesman John Shanley said prosecutors have notified O'Shea's lawyer, James Collins, of the charges. "He (Collins) said that O'Shea intends to surrender himself and will probably do it Monday, since he is currently out of town," said Shanley. "That is acceptable to us."

Neither O'Shea nor Collins could be reached for comment.

O'Shea was charged in 1994 with molesting nine boys from 1969 through 1980. The charges were dismissed last year because the statute of limitations had expired. He was accused of molesting the boys while escorting them on recreational junkets to Lake Berryessa and Lake Tahoe.

In March, the church paid $2.5 million in a civil settlement to 15 men who claimed they were molested as boys by O'Shea and two other Bay Area priests, Gary Timmons and Austin Patrick Keegan.

Last month, after making full restitution of $200,000 in embezzled funds, Greenlaw was sentenced to one year of home detention and three years probation, infuriating prosecutors and some parishioners who felt Greenlaw deserved harsher punishment.

Prosecutors seem determined to avoid a similar result in O'Shea's case. "This is a severe violation of trust against parishioners and the church, and we're going to seek a severe sentence," said Sanchez.

 
 

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