Former Delray Pastor Changes Counsel Three Months before Grand Theft Trial to Commence

By Missy Diaz
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
September 17, 2008,0,3098914.story

Three months before jury selection is to begin in the grand-theft case against two former pastors of Delray Beach's St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, one of the priests has changed attorneys.

The Rev. Francis Guinan, 65, asked Circuit Judge Sandra McSorley on Tuesday for permission to substitute well-known defense attorney David Roth for Richard Barlow, of Stuart.

Roth appeared at Tuesday's hearing and said he and Guinan had a difference of opinion about how to defend the case.

Before granting Guinan's request, McSorley warned Guinan that she would permit no delays as a result of a new counsel taking over.

Roth declined to comment Tuesday. Barlow could not be reached despite attempts by phone.

Together, Guinan and the Rev. John Skehan, 81, are accused of funneling nearly $1 million from church coffers. Both men are charged with a single count of grand theft of more than $100,000.

An audit by the Diocese of Palm Beach revealed that as much as $8.6 million in cash donations to St. Vincent Ferrer, one of Palm Beach County's oldest and wealthiest parishes, was misappropriated.

Though he was pastor of the church for 40 years, Skehan's charges reflect only a five-year period ending in September 2006. He's accused of taking about $370,000 during that time. Because of statutes of limitations, prosecutors said, they could charge him only with thefts that occurred between September 2001 and September 2006, when charges were initially filed.

Guinan is believed to have taken $488,000 during a 19-month time-frame, beginning when he replaced Skehan as pastor in September 2003, investigators said.

Skehan retired in 2002, when he turned 75. Guinan left in September 2005, a few months after an investigation of the church's books began.

Missy Diaz can be reached at or 561-228-5505.


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