Two priests charged with stealing from Mesa parish

Associated Press/December 22, 2004

Phoenix -- Two priests were arrested and indicted on charges that they skimmed about $160,000 from a Mesa parish's donations to pay for lavish furniture and travel, authorities said Wednesday.

The Rev. Dennis Riccitelli, 60, was indicted on 10 counts of theft and four counts of fraudulent schemes. The Rev. Blase G. Meyer, 63, faces one charge of fraudulent schemes and one of theft. Both were indicted Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege the two priests defrauded Holy Cross Catholic Church and the Diocese of Phoenix from 2001 to 2003 by taking petty cash, misusing a church checking account and submitting reimbursement reports for expenses that had already been paid.

They are accused of using the money to buy expensive furniture, pay for travel and upgrade their homes, said Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

Detectives launched an investigation after Bishop Thomas Olmsted requested that the county attorney's office look into allegations of mishandled money, Romley said.

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