Ex-priest indicted on wire fraud charges


July 16, 2020

By Jade Bulecza

A non-profit organization is calling for a bishop to step down after a ex-priest was indicted on 10 counts of wire fraud.

Prosecutors said Father Lenin Vargas faked having cancer and scammed parishioners to donate money for personal expenses.

Vargas was the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville and Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Macon.

According to indictment papers, he contracted HIV before September 2014. The Catholic Diocese of Jackson covered his treatment.

Prosecutors said he lied, telling his parishioners he had cancer and needed to raise money to cover those expenses. Mark Belenchia of SNAP Mississippi, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Vargas took advantage of people.

“This is not about Christianity or church or anything like that,” said Belenchia. “It’s about an institution that’s willing to protect itself and its assets. It’s all about the flow of capital.”

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