Father Amer Saka
Priest with Chaldean Catholic Church in Canada. (The Chaldean Catholic Church is in communion with Rome. ) There is no listing of the Chaldeon Catholic Church in Canada in the Canadian Catholic Church Directories, nor is Father Saka listed in the index . According to media reports he has served as pastor at St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in London, Ontario for about eight years and also administrator for unknown period of time at the Mar Ouraha parish in Kitchener. As a member of the Chaldean rite these parishes do not ‘belong’ to the Dioceses of London or Hamilton Ontario, and the bishop to whom Saka is responsible is a Chaldean bishop. As of June 2011 there is one Chaldean ‘diocese’ in Canada, the Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto, which serves all Chaldean throughout Canada.
Saka was, however, participating in the Canadian government’s refugee-sponsorship program through the Hamilton Roman Catholic Diocese.
After a complaint to law enforcement regarding refugee funds which were allegedly gambled away by Father Saka, a police investigation was conducted in Ontario, the United States and other countries where refugees were attempting to come to Canada. On 13 July 2016 Father Saka was charged with fraud over $5,000 and possessing proceeds of property or thing exceeding $5,000. Police will say only that the total sum of money ‘lost’ was in excess of $500,000.
Saka was participating in the federal government’s refugee-sponsorship program through the Hamilton Roman Catholic Diocese.
22 October 2019: Sentenced to two years in prison
January 2019: Guilty plea to fraud over $5,000 (initial reports were that an estimated $438,000 went missing. It is believed that much of that was gambled away at local casinos. After sentencing media reported that over $900,000 was taken.)
09 April 2018: Priest accused of $500,000 fraud heading to trial
27 March 2018: Preliminary hearing in priest’s fraud case continues
14 July 2016: BLOG Ontario Chaldean priest charged with fraud
Defence lawyer: Iryna Revutsky. Judge at Preliminary Hearing: Justice Allan Maclure
After preliminary hearing was committed to stand trial in Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Next court date: 22 October 2019: sentenced: two years in prison;
06 May 2019: sentencing hearing, Ontario Court of Justice, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.) ;
08 May 2018: 9 am, Assignment Court, Superior Court of Justice, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.) ; 19-30 March 2018: 10-day Preliminary Hearing, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.); 25 May 2017: 09:30 am, “to be spoken to,” courtroom #5, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.) ; 09 March 2017: 09:30 am, “to be spoken to,” courtroom #5, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.) ; 02 February 2017: 09:30 am, “to be spoken to,” courtroom #5, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.); 22 December 2016: 09:30 am, “to be spoken to,” courtroom #5, London Ontario courthouse ( 80 Dundas St.); 17 November ; 2016: 09:30 am, “to be spoken to,” courtroom #5, London Ontario courthouse, 80 Dundas St. ; 20 October 2016: 09:30 am, “to be spoken to,” London Ontario courthouse, 80 Dundas St.; 20 September “to be spoken to,” London Ontario courthouse, 80 Dundas St.; 08 September 2016: London Ontario courthouse, 80 Dundas St.; 18 August 2016
14 July 2016: Bail hearing
13 July 2016: Charged with fraud over $5,000 and possessing proceeds of property or thing exceeding $5,000
March 2016: allegations that Father Saka is under investigation by police after Church officials reported that more than $500,000 collected to sponsor refugees was ‘lost’ gambling. Saka was allegedly immediately escorted to Southdown by his Bishop, Emanuel Shaleta.
London priest gambled away more than $500,000 that had been earmarked for refugee sponsorship, reports say
The London Free Press
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:06:32 EDT AM
St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church on Charles Street in London serves about 100 families, the bishop says. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)
Up to eight London families, and more across southern Ontario, are reportedly out of pocket and the priest they trusted is under investigation after hundreds of thousands of dollars went missing.
The priest, Father Amer Saka of St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in London, is suspended and being investigated by police, with his bishop saying Saka told him he gambled away more than $500,000 given to him by families who thought he was holding it for refugee relatives under a private sponsorship program.
Seven or eight London families from the small church in the city are among those who trusted Saka to deposit thousands of dollars into a trust fund to be used once the refugees arrived in Canada, said Bishop Emmanuel Shaleta, head of the Toronto-based Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Canada.
“They deposited it for their loved ones. He was supposed to return it when their relative came.” Shaleta said Monday.
“They did not give this money as a donation for their church. Those people are upset now that money is not there anymore. There are people affected, not only in London, but Toronto, Windsor and Kitchener,” where the priest also worked, he said.
“They trusted him, this money was not for him. It was to be given back to the refugees.”
Instead, the government “has stopped all processing” of refugees wanting to come to London on private sponsorships facilitated by Saka, said one member of the London congregation.
“People are sad. There are people who are working all their life to bring their family here,” said the man, who did not want to be named.
“Some people had no money. They borrowed thousands just to get their family from Syria,” he said, adding many in the congregation have relatives in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
The man said estimates of $500,000 are low and he’d heard more than $800,000 had vanished. He said he knows of one family alone who gave more than $70,000 to the priest for loved ones still overseas.
“Everybody’s talking about it.”
Saka, who was also an administrator of the Mar Ouraha parish in Kitchener, could not be reached by phone or in person for comment Monday.
Shaleta, head of Canada’s Mar Addai Chaldean Eparchy, an Eastern Rite church that represents Catholics from Iraq and surrounding countries ,and which is overseen by the Vatican, said the problem came to light more than a month ago, when he learned the priest was participating in the federal government’s refugee-sponsorship program through the Hamilton Roman Catholic Diocese.
Saka is not a priest for either the Diocese of London or the Diocese of Hamilton.
With police tight-lipped, key questions about the case remain, including:
- Whether money was actually deposited with any church for refugee sponsorship purposes.
- Whether oversight procedures, typically tight involving private refugee sponsorships, were lacking.
- Why someone from one Catholic organization would go to another to help with private refugee sponsorships. A spokesperson for the Hamilton diocese has suggested that might be because Hamilton has a large Chaldean community and because Saka’s Kitchener mission parish is located within the diocese.
Saka had been parish priest at St. Joseph’s for about eight years, the parishioner told The Free Press. He called him a good priest who liked to do things with his flock, including play soccer with the men.
London police confirmed they’re investigating after church officials reported more than $500,000 went missing.
“I can confirm that there is a fraud investigation after we received a complaint from the Catholic church,” said London police Const. Melissa Duncan. “The investigation is ongoing. As with any fraud investigation, it can take some time because there are various components to the investigation.”
Saka’s London parish has a congregation of about 100 families, said Shaleta. They’re among about 38,000 Chaldean Catholics across the country.
Shaleta said he hadn’t known the London priest was taking part in the program to sponsor Iraqi refugees.
“I did not know that. I said to him, ‘I know this program deposits money (for refugees), where did you deposit it?’” said Shaleta.
“I cornered him. I said, ‘I need to know where is this,’” he said. “He confessed.”
The priest told him he’d been gambling, said Shaleta.
“Right away, I removed him from the parish.”
Shaleta said he contacted police, took Saka to Southdown Institute in Holland Landing, Ont., for priests with addiction and mental health issues, took over the congregation for two weeks and has since sent a priest there.
“The congregation has nothing to do with this. They are not involved with this,” he said.
Fewer than 100 people normally attend the tiny Charles Street church in London, but the day the bishop arrived to explain things there were as many as 300, said the parishioner.
Under the federal government’s private sponsorship program, people who want to sponsor refugees must raise money to support the newcomers as they get settled.
About $12,000 must be raised to sponsor one refugee, and $27,000 to sponsor a family.
Faith-based organizations often partner with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to help with the process by holding the money, making the application and essentially vouching for the sponsors. The money is used for rent and expenses during the first year after newcomers arrive.
“The diocese says ‘this is a parishioner, we know them, we trust them,’” explained Shaleta.
He said he doesn’t know what’s happening in the cases of the sponsorships that were being held by the London priest, but the bishop said he’s working to ensure the refugees make it to Canada.
“I will do my best to process those files,” he said. “Of course, as a church we will help as much as we can.”
A priest in Canada is accused of spending over $500,000 meant for persecuted Christians on gambling.
Father Amer Saka, who is a priest in the Chaldean Catholic Church, is under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police in the city of London, Ontario on a count of embezzlement. It is said Father Saka confessed to Bishop Emanuel Shaleta that he had lost the money in what he called a game of chance.
Shaleta told the Toronto Star: “He called me on the phone and . . . said he lost all the money. I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘Gambling,’” and continued, “we believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose.” Unwilling to shed more detail on the situation he said, “since there is an investigation going on, we cannot confirm what he’s saying.”
Father Saka was suspended from his duties at the church of St. Joseph which is in the only Chaldean Catholic jurisdiction in Canada. Bishop Shaleta, who heads the jurisdiction, is said to have immediately driven down to London to take Father Saka to the Southdown Institute. The Institute specializes in helping Priests overcome personal difficulties such as alcoholism, depression, gambling and sexually abusive behavior.
The police case began after they received a complaint from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton who told them in February that money was missing from a program they were involved with. The program that Father Saka headed was using accumulated funds to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees to come to Canada. Saka was meant to handle the money that was donated by families who wanted to support other family members who were fleeing persecution by groups like the Islamic State.
Spokesperson for the London Police, constable Sandasha Bough told media “an investigation is underway.” So far no charges have been laid in the case and it is unknown whether the Crown prosecutor will lay charges on Father Saka for fraud or embezzlement.
The Chaldean Catholic Church in Canada was founded less than five years ago when Pope Benedict XVI gave them his blessing. The formation of the church was due largely to an influx in migration from Iraq, where the Chaldean Catholic church is based, where many Christians have been at the mercy of the atrocities committed by the Islamic State as they rampaged through Northern Iraq.
Monsignor Murray Kroetsch, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, oversees the various sponsorship programs meant to help Christians and others flee persecution. He commented on the matter of Father Saka saying: “We want to assure the refugees that our part of our agreement is looked after and that money will be provided to help them feel secure and help them find their footing in the country,” adding: “We need to assure them that we’re not just going to abandon them.”
Father Saka is not the only person who has tried to use to migrant crisis to enrich himself or to pay for his vices. A migrant in Austria has used the migrant crisis to make himself wealthy by creating fake charities and non existent migrant homes to defraud Austrian taxpayers. Migrant “Abdullah P.” is currently under investigation for defrauding the Austrian government to the tune of millions of euros.
Ontario priest accused of gambling away $500K for refugees
Published Monday, March 28, 2016 12:35PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 28, 2016 9:53PM EDT
A priest in London, Ont., is under police investigation after church officials learned that he may have gambled away more than $500,000 in funds that had been slated for the sponsorship of Iraqi refugees.
Father Amer Saka, a priest at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, has been suspended after telling Bishop Emanuel Shaleta that he lost all the money to gambling.
It is unclear what form of gambling the priest may have engaged in.
London Police confirmed to CTV News that they launched a fraud investigation in late February, after receiving a complaint from the Diocese of Hamilton, which is managing the refugees’ sponsorship.
No charges have been laid and the allegations have not been proven in court.
According to a report in the Toronto Star, Saka has since been sent for treatment for gambling addiction at the Southdown Institute. The clinic is a non-profit facility for clergy members battling addiction and mental health issues.
Bishop Shaleta told CTV News that Saka’s actions did not involve the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church or its funds.
“It was deposited with Father Saka for refugees who arrive here,” said Bishop Shaleta.
“They trusted him. They did not give it as a gift. They were trusting the priest. They didn’t ask for receipts.”
Toronto Star reporter Chris Reynolds also spoke to Bishop Shelata, who told him he was troubled by the allegations.
“He said he was deeply disturbed (about) the implications for refugees coming over and trying to come over to Toronto and the southern Ontario area,” Reynolds told CTV News Channel Monday.
The Chaldean Catholic Church is based in Baghdad and represents Catholics from Iraq and neighbouring countries. It is an arm of the Catholic Church and is under the watch of the Vatican.
St. Joseph Chaldean Church is not part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, but is instead part of Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto.
Hamilton’s Catholic diocese is a registered sponsorship agreement holder, sponsoring several Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Saka led a constituent group authorized by the Hamilton Diocese to sponsor 20 Iraqi refugees. As group leader, he was in charge of the funds meant to cover sponsorship costs.
The Hamilton diocese says it will now take over responsibility for the refugees’ support.
Amer Saka, Catholic Priest, Gambled Away Over $500,000 Meant For Refugees: Reports
Police in London, Ont. are investigating a Catholic priest after he allegedly gambled away over $500,000 meant for refugees.
Father Amer Saka of the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church confessed to bishop Emanuel Shaleta last month that the money had disappeared in games of chance, The Toronto Star reported.
He was suspended right away, Shaleta told the newspaper. Saka subsequently received treatment.
Father Amer Saka. (Photo: Chaldean Catholic Church/Facebook)
Precisely how the money was gambled away isn’t clear. But Shaleta believes Saka has a “serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for this purpose.”
“Since there is an investigation going on, we cannot confirm what he’s saying,” he said.
Shaleta added that Saka was taken to Southdown Institute, a facility that offers addiction and mental health services for clergy members.
Father Amer Saka. (Photo: Chaldean Catholic Church/Facebook)
The London police began a fraud investigation after they received a complaint from the Diocese of Hamilton in February, CTV News reported.
The diocese had been overseeing efforts by numerous groups, including one led by Saka, to sponsor Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Canada.
Saka was trusted with handling funds after families donated money to support loved ones fleeing war in the Middle East.
But, instead of holding the money for refugees, it was gambled off, Shaleta told the London Free Press.
“They deposited it for their loved ones (and) he was supposed to return it when their relative came,” he said.
“They trusted him, this money was not for him. It was to be given back to the refugees.”
Sponsoring a family of four refugees for a year costs a minimum of approximately $20,000, on top of $7,000 in startup costs, according to Lifeline Syria.
The Diocese of Hamilton is now overseeing sponsorship for the refugees that Saka had been helping, CTV News noted.
Money for refugees lost gambling, says Catholic Church in London, Ont.
A Chaldean Catholic church says he lost the money gambling, according to church officials.
The Toronto Star
28 March 2016
By:Christopher Reynolds Staff Reporter,
Police have launched an investigation into a Chaldean Catholic priest from London, Ont., after church officials reported more than $500,000 slated for refugee sponsorship was lost to gambling.
Father Amer Saka, a priest working at the St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in London, is under investigation after telling his bishop, Emanuel Shaleta, that funds intended to help new Canadians had instead vanished in vice, Shaleta said.
“He called me on the phone and . . . said he lost all the money. I said, ‘How?’ He said, ‘Gambling,’” Shaleta told the Star on Saturday, referring to a conversation he said took place Feb. 23.
“We believe that Father Saka has a serious gambling problem and that these funds may have been used for that purpose,” he said. “Since there is an investigation going on, we cannot confirm what he’s saying.”
Shaleta, who sits at the head of Canada’s first and only Chaldean eparchy, or jurisdiction, said he suspended the priest immediately after learning of the missing money.
The bishop drove to London the next day to take Saka for several days of voluntary treatment at Southdown Institute, a non-profit facility north of Toronto for priests battling problems ranging from addiction to depression to sexually abusive behaviour.
London police confirmed they received a complaint Feb. 24 of alleged financial misappropriation related to the local parish.
“An investigation is underway,” said spokesperson Const. Sandasha Bough on March 15. The financial crimes probe was launched more than a week after the initial report, said police, who needed bank records before going further.
No charges have been laid. The allegations have not been proven in court.
The Star reached out to Saka through calls and letters to his church in London. A St. Joseph church representative said it is treating the situation “very seriously” but that comment would be “inappropriate” given an ongoing internal investigation.
The Chaldean Catholic Church is based in Baghdad and represents Catholics from Iraq and neighbouring countries, but ultimately falls under the watch of the Holy See in the Vatican.
The Toronto-based Chaldean eparchy is one of the Chaldean Catholic Church’s newest, founded with Pope Benedict XVI’s blessing less than five years ago as Iraqi immigrants continued to arrive in Canada. It encompasses several churches in Ontario, including St. Joseph.
Monsignor Murray Kroetsch, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, which runs the sponsorship program, said Saka was the leader of a constituent group raising funds to sponsor refugees from Iraq.
It’s one of about 30 parishes and parties to partner with the Hamilton diocese in the sponsorship agreement.
Kroetsch said the Hamilton diocese filed up to 20 applications sponsored by Saka for refugees from Iraq. About 10 of them have arrived in southern Ontario. With all now facing a potential void of financial backing, the Hamilton diocese has taken over responsibility for their support, Kroetsch said.
“We want to assure the refugees that our part of our agreement is looked after and that money will be provided to help them feel secure and help them find their footing in the country,” he said.
Holders of sponsorship agreements, signed with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, must support refugees for at least the first year after their arrival.
“They’re somewhat vulnerable, and now they may be even more fearful . . . We need to assure them that we’re not just going to abandon them,” Kroetsch said.
Sponsorships cost about $6,000 a person, or about $20,000 to $25,000 for a family of four, said Shaleta.
“It is wrong for a priest to go and gamble. It’s against the rules,” said Shaleta.
The bishop said he informed parishioners — mostly northern Iraqi immigrants, many from communities now overrun by Daesh who are trying to bring family members to Canada — soon after the priest told Shaleta about the missing funds.
Police are encouraging any members of the public who may have had dealings with Saka to contact the London Police Service at (519) 661-5670 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).