The Guardian [London, England]
February 3, 2022
By Angela Giuffrida
Luca Morini, who allegedly spent church funds on parties and escorts, was exposed by an Italian TV show
An Italian former priest dubbed “Don Euro” by his parishioners because he kept pestering them for money has been jailed for extorting a former bishop.
Luca Morini served as a priest in the Tuscan village of Pontasserchio before being defrocked by the Vatican amid a series of scandals, culminating with a court in Massa Carrara sentencing him on Wednesday to seven and a half years in prison for extortion.
He was also convicted of assuming a false identity after masquerading as a judge when hiring male sex workers but acquitted on charges of extorting a nun, drug dealing and money laundering.
Morini was reportedly considered “a good-natured priest” when he first arrived in Pontasserchio, a village of about 2,600 inhabitants close to Pisa. But he soon earned the nickname Don Euro after persuading his mostly elderly parishioners to donate generously to the church’s collection plate, with the money allegedly being splurged on parties, diamonds, luxury holidays with sex workers and visits to swingers’ clubs.
Legal investigations into his shenanigans only began in 2015 after one of the sex workers blew the whistle on him and his lavish spending, revealing that Morini had posed as a judge, and after he was exposed by the TV show Le Iene.
Four men, including the original whistleblower, brought a case against Morini for false identity and were awarded €14,000 (£12,000) in compensation by the court. Morini’s parishioners claimed to Le Iene that he was always pestering them for money, even during confessions, although they never officially reported him.
Morini’s conviction for extortion related to Giovanni Santucci, the former bishop of Massa Carrara. Santucci had suspended Morini from priest duties and was allegedly blackmailed into loaning him thousands of euros and buying him a €200,000 house. Santucci resigned from his post last year.
Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of eight and a half years, but Morini’s defence team argued that he was suffering from mental illness and his sentence was reduced.
Morini’s conviction comes two months after a court in the Tuscan city of Prato handed a jail term of three years and four months to a parish priest who was found guilty of stealing money from his church’s offertory and using it to buy drugs for sex parties.