Catholic priest accused of embezzling $40,000 for mobile games

A Pennsylvania priest was arrested last week for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars in church money to fund his mobile gambling habit.

According to CBS News, Lawrence Kozak — a former pastor at St. Thomas More Parish in Pittstown — was put behind bars on April 25 after police discovered he had made 2,000 “gaming” transactions using his Apple ID. The purchases took place from September 2019 to June 2022 and totaled $214,000, of which $40,000 was charged to a credit card belonging to a church. The outlet reports that most purchases went to popular mobile apps such as Candy Crush, Mario Kart, Pokémon Go and multiple slot machine games.

Kozak reportedly told investigators that his purchases did not qualify as gambling, but instead as “charging.”

Investigators also allege the Catholic priest used the parish credit card to purchase multiple gifts for his granddaughter on Amazon, including a chemistry set and a tablet computer. He was subsequently charged with theft by unlawful taking, failure to provide required funds and accessing a device to which he was not authorized.

“Father Lawrence Kozak was placed on administrative leave by the archdiocese in November 2022,” the archdiocese said in a statement to WEAU. “His administrative leave followed a review of the financial operations of Saint Thomas More Parish by the archdiocesan Office of Parish Services and Support. That review had the effect of questioning certain expenditures and levels of expenditure using parish funds. The archdiocese then referred the matter to the police.”