Jurors hears words of accused priest - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Jurors hears words of accused priest

By Chuck Weber email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)-A local priest-- on trial, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his former parish-- seemed to agree with charges against him, yet acted defensively, during a phone call with investigators.

Thursday prosecutors wrapped up their case against Father Francis Guinan on Thursday, playing a recorded phone conversation between the priest and two agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The investigators had just charged Guinan with grand theft. Guinan was vacationing in Australia at the time.

The agents encouraged Guinan to return to the state to surrender and laid out the accusations against him. "You know you were paying your Delta Sky Miles card out of the church slush funds," stated FDLE agent John Marinello. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I agree," replied Guinan haltingly.

Prosecutors say Guinan used money from St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach, to pay for a lavish lifestyle, including overseas property, girlfriends, and gambling trips to Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

"The point is that these trips were funded with, you know, misappropriated money that went into a slush fund," Agent Marinello said to Guinan during the phone call. "Yeah," Guinan responded.

Agents asked Guinan if he felt remorse. He said he did. But Guinan also seemed to try and justify his actions through his years of service to the church. He said, "You feel like you sacrifice over and beyond. I've done my fair share of acts of charity... helping people who needed help."

Now that prosecutors have rested, Guinan's lawyers will put on a case. Attorney Richard Barlow has maintained Guinan has stolen nothing, and that priests can legitimately earn a lot of money. Barlow plans to call more than a dozen witnesses.

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