It’s not every day that a person charged with a federal crime picks up the phone, so Wednesday was a bit unusual in that regard. We called Villa St. Joseph, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s retirement home in Delaware County, to find out whether administrators there had any comment about the charges against the home’s rector — and the rector himself picked up the phone.
“I don’t have any comment about that,” Monsignor William Dombrow told us before ending the call.
On Wednesday, the United States Attorney for Philadelphia charged Dombrow, 77, with four counts of wire fraud, alleging that he fraudulently diverted $535,258 in funds to an account at Sharon Savings Bank under his control. The scheme allegedly took place between 2007 and 2016, all while Dombrow was a monsignor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the rector for Villa St. Joseph, where good priests go to retire and priests who have admitted to committing sexual abuse have been sent for a “prayer and penance” program.
According to prosecutors, the funds in question came primarily from estates and life-insurance policies. They were supposed to be directed to accounts under the control of the Archdiocese and Catholic Human Services, but instead, Dombrow allegedly took them for his personal use.
The charging documents point to four specific transactions in which Dombrow is said to have diverted checks for his own purposes: In 2013, a $10,000 from Beneficial Bank; in 2014, a $25,000 check from Wells Fargo Bank; in 2015, a $14,410 check from Citizens Bank, and, most recently, a 2016 check from the Bank of America for $10,000.
The $14,410 check was a payment from the estate of Francis P. Rogers. Rogers’s name is significant, as he was one of the priests named in the infamous 2005 grand jury report in Philadelphia. The grand jury found that the church received “a litany of verifiable reports” that Rogers had sexually abused children. Rogers died in 2005, while he was a resident at Villa St. Joseph.
Asked for comment, Archdiocese spokesperson Ken Gavin sent the following statement:
“Last summer, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was alerted to irregularities concerning a bank account connected to Villa Saint Joseph in Darby, Pennsylvania. The Villa provides licensed nursing care and housing for retired and infirm priests of the Archdiocese.
“Upon review of information supplied by the bank, this account was immediately frozen. At that time, the matter was referred to law enforcement by the Archdiocese and Monsignor William Dombrow’s faculties as well as his administrative responsibilities were restricted. Throughout the investigation, the Archdiocese has cooperated fully with law enforcement.”
This is a developing story and may be updated throughout.
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Rector charged with stealing money at Catholic priests’ home
05 April 2017
The rector of a church-owned retirement home for Roman Catholic priests has been charged with embezzling $535,000 to pay for casino visits, high-end dinners and Philadelphia Pops concerts.
Federal prosecutors have charged Msgr. William A. Dombrow with skimming money for nearly nine years from an account meant to support Villa St. Joseph.
The Philadelphia archdiocese runs the facility to house aging priests and those accused of sexual abuse. Much of the stolen money came from insurance payments for priests who died and from parishioners who left the facility money.
Authorities say the 77-year-old Dombrow had sole access to the account.
Dombrow has been charged by way of a criminal information, which often means a defendant is cooperating. His attorney hasn’t returned a phone message left Wednesday seeking comment.
Feds: Monsignor embezzled $500K to cover gambling debts, Philly Pops tickets
05 April 2017
The rector of a Philadelphia Archdiocese retirement home for aging priests was charged Wednesday with embezzling more than a half-million dollars from the facility to cover his tastes for fancy dinners, Philadelphia Pops concerts, and local casinos.
Federal prosecutors accused Msgr. William A. Dombrow, 77, of siphoning funds for nearly nine years from a private account set up to support Villa St. Joseph, the facility in Darby Borough that also houses priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.
Much of the money that flowed into that account came from the life insurance payouts of priests who had died while residing there or bequests from the estates of parishioners who intended to support the facility.
The theft was discovered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella said, after the bank that administered the account flagged several suspicious payments and deductions at Harrah’s Casino in Chester and notified the Archdiocese of Philadelphia last year.
“He was the one who had sole access to this account and misappropriated the funds for his personal use,” Rotella said. “He used it to fund a more lavish lifestyle for himself.”
Dombrow was charged with four counts of wire fraud by way of a criminal information instead of an indictment – a sign that typically means a defendant has already agreed to plead guilty.
He could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but his lawyer, Coley O. Reynolds, said Dombrow remains rector at Villa St. Joseph and has cooperated since the start of the investigation.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said that Dombrow’s administrative duties at Villa St. Joseph, including the handling of finances, were restricted after the theft was discovered last summer.
“The monsignor is remorseful and ashamed of his conduct,” Reynolds said. “He’s done a lot of great things for the people of the parish and the archdiocese.”
Dombrow is a recovering alcoholic who devoted his time to helping other priests with struggles with alcohol. He previously led the Archdiocesan Priests’ Committee on Alcoholism and a center for those seeking religious-based addiction treatment.
Among the funds he is accused of embezzling was $14,410 left to Villa St. Joseph by the Rev. Francis P. Rogers, who had numerous sexual-abuse complaints lodged against him prior to his death in 2005 — the same year a Philadelphia grand jury issued its report detailing the allegations against him.
Dombrow, too, featured in that grand jury report. He testified before the panel that the archdiocesan officials had failed to notify him in 1997 that a priest it had transferred to the parish he was overseeing had numerous abuse allegations lodged against him.