Father Sam to Serve 1 Day in Jail

By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal
October 20, 2010

Priest also given 3 years of probation, fined $350,000 and ordered to repay $3.5 million for income tax and bank fraud

The Rev. Samuel R. Ciccolini, the beloved Roman Catholic priest from Akron who headed Interval Brotherhood Home for four decades, was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James Gwin to a single day in jail for income tax and bank-related fraud.

Ciccolini was taken into custody immediately.

Gwin also placed Ciccolini on probation for three years, fined him $350,000 and ordered him to repay $3.5 million to Interval Brotherhood Home Foundation, saying he believed the priest embezzled at least that much.

It was revealed in court that Ciccolini has accumulated a trust fund worth about $5 million.

''I am profoundly sorry for what I did in the past. My intentions were good,'' Ciccolini said to Gwin during the proceedings.

Ciccolini, 68, of Akron, had pleaded guilty in July to one count of structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return. His plea agreement called for a potential sentence of 18 to 24 months. The average sentence in such cases is 22.4 months.

His attorneys had asked that he receive only house arrest because of his lengthy career of helping others and his cooperation with authorities.

Ciccolini had stepped aside as executive director of Interval Brotherhood Home after he was charged. The nonprofit agency in Coventry Township provides services for those struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.

Federal authorities say he deposited more than $1 million in bank branches in the Akron area from April to June 2003 by making 139 individual cash transactions. Banks are required to report deposits of more than $10,000 to federal authorities under the Bank Secrecy Act, which is designed to catch money laundering. Ciccolini deposited lower amounts to avoid the reporting requirement.

He filed a tax return in 2004 listing his income for the previous year as $101,064 when it was $407,062. Although he faced only one income tax charge, he has admitted other years' returns also were incorrect.

Ciccolini, who often described himself as a humble priest from inner-city Akron, also has admitted he hoarded money and stashed cash in his room at Immaculate Conception church in Akron before making the bank deposits. His attorneys have said he avoided the bank-reporting requirement because he's a private person who didn't want questions asked about his personal finances and he didn't want the public to know about his personal wealth.

Authorities have said the priest accumulated more than $1 million through bequests and other personal gifts over his religious career.

He deceived the foundation by billing it for construction work and equipment that had been donated, falsifying invoices and financial records, and issuing false checks, authorities say.

He was not charged with theft, though. Ciccolini has returned the stolen money and the foundation didn't want to pursue charges, U.S. Assistant Attorney Robert Bulford said.

The federal charges and revelations about Ciccolini's personal wealth shocked the Akron community, where Ciccolini had built a reputation as a compassionate priest devoted to helping others. He also earned worldwide acclaim for his efforts. In 2000, he was honored by Pope John Paul II for his work and celebrated Mass with the pope in the pontiff's private chapel in the Vatican.

Ciccolini's standing as a priest is uncertain and will be determined after a review by Bishop Richard G. Lennon, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.

Although Ciccolini maintains his status as a priest, he has been placed on administrative leave. The suspension means that he is prohibited from performing the duties of a priest (including the celebration of public Mass). He continues to receive pay and benefits.

In a prepared statement, diocesan officials expressed that the diocese respects the court's sentencing decision and wrote that ''it is unfortunate that Father Samuel Ciccolini engaged in matters which constituted violation of federal law.''


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