Akron Priest Ordered to Pay Almost $4 Million in Fines and Restitution

By Peter Krouse
Plain Dealer
October 20, 2010

Karen Schiely, Akron Beacon Journal Via APThe Rev. Samuel Ciccolini, right, and lawyer, Peter Cahoon - file photo

A federal judge sentenced the Rev. Samuel Ciccolini to one day in prison and ordered him to pay almost $4 million in fines and restitution for evading banking regulations and filing false tax returns.

Ciccolini, known to the community as Father Sam, founded the Interval Brotherhood Home, a thriving drug and alcohol treatment center in Akron. But he found himself in trouble with the law when federal investigators caught on to his suspicious banking practices.

The priest began serving his one-day sentence immediately.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin ordered Ciccolini to pay restitution of $3.5 million to the foundation that supports the Interval Brotherhood Home. Although Ciccolini was never charged with theft, Gwin said he believes most of the priest's personal wealth came from money he embezzled from the foundation.

Gwin also fined Ciccolini $350,000.

Investigators found that Ciccolini had more than $4.3 million in his own accounts at the end 2006. Gwin also referenced a $5 million trust fund belonging to Ciccolini that Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Bulford said was created in 2008 after Ciccolini realized he was under investigation.

"He has the assets to pay the restitution and the fine," Bulford said after the hearing.

The judge took into consideration Ciccolini's age and health -- he's a smoker with heart and lung problems -- and his years of service to the Interval Brotherhood Home, when imposing sentence on the 68-year-old priest.

But Gwin accused Ciccolini of lying about the source of more than $1 million in cash the priest deposited in various banks in 2003. Ciccolini admitted depositing the money in 139 separate transactions of less than $10,000 each to avoid bank reporting requirements. He told Gwin the money, kept in his rectory apartment, came from income, donations, gifts, investments and other legitimate sources.

Gwin didn't believe Ciccolini. The judge said he was convinced the cash, at least in part, came from money Ciccolini embezzled from the foundation set up on behalf the Interval Brotherhood Home.

Ciccolini admitted taking nearly $1.3 million from the foundation between 2000 and 2007 and putting it into his own personal accounts. He stated in court documents that he took control of the foundation money because it was his goodwill that attracted it in the first place.

Ciccolini returned the $1.3 million after an investigation began and was never charged with theft. But he never reported the embezzled money as income, so he was charged with filing false tax returns.

Supporters of Ciccolini, including Tim Killian, president of the IBH Foundation board of trustees, said they still don't believe the priest took money from the foundation for his own personal use.

Killian said the Interval Brotherhood Home wouldn't exist today if not for Ciccolini.

"I will say we need to give Father Sam a second chance, whatever that may be," Killian said.

Ciccolini is no longer involved with the IBH Foundation. He also will not return as executive director of the home, although he's expected to continue providing counseling to the residents.

Ciccolini said in documents filed with the court that he hoarded cash in his apartment because that's how he learned to control his money growing up but put it in the bank out of fear that it would become devalued by changes in the appearance of U.S. currency.

Gwin found Ciccolini's explanation preposterous and compared it to a prior case where an alleged gambler said he kept money in a steel box because he was afraid of Y2K.

Gwin said Ciccolini should have had no concern about depositing his money in the bank if he has acquired it legitimately. He also said it made no sense to keep some of his wealth in cash, out of fears about currency devaluation, while keeping most of it in the bank.


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