2002-11-02 / Front Page

‘Sins of The Father’

Priest Living At St. Gertrude
By Gary G. Toms

Priest Living At St. Gertrude’s
Sentenced For Embezzlement
By Gary G. Toms

In the latest saga involving misconduct by Catholic priests, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced this week that the former pastor of St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church, in Ozone Park, has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $95,000 in parish funds. The priest, John Thompson, whose address is listed as 336 Beach 38 Street (St. Gertrude’s Church) also admitted that much of the money was used to pay for credit cards, a vacation rental in Mexico, trips to Florida, and a list of other personal expenses. A sentence of five years probation was handed down, and in addition, the former priest must pay back all of the money he stole from the parish. Thompson has since made an initial payment of $10,000 toward full restitution.

"The defendant has been held to account for his wrongdoing. He has admitted his guilt, waived his right to an appeal, and agreed to pay back every penny of the more than $95,000 that he stole and improperly used for his personal benefit," said Brown.

Thompson had served as pastor of the St. Elizabeth’s Church from 1997 until his resignation in March. On September 17, 2002, he pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Grosso, who imposed sentencing.

According to the District Attorney, the investigation began in June when the principal of St. Elizabeth’s School, Barbara Samide, told prosecutors she believed that the pastor had been spending church and school funds without properly substantiating his expenditures. Samide stated that in addition to Thompson having a homosexual relationship, the priest was using money that was earmarked for the elementary school to purchase expensive gifts for his lover (identified only as an 18-year-old man named "Jonathan" - who was living in the St. Elizabeth’s rectory) and pay for trips to gay resorts in Florida. She noted that the school's budget was about $250,000 in the red, and Father Thompson got rid of the parish committee that was in charge of keeping an eye on tuition collection.

Samide went on to note that when she tried to approach the officials of the diocese to discuss her concerns, she was basically shunned, told to keep her mouth shut, or was told that the matter would be handled by church officials. Fueled by a growing church scandal, Samide threatened to take the information she had to prosecutors, and it was only at that point that Father Thompson resigned. He was then shipped to St. Gertrude's Church, but was not given an official title. However, the priest did take part in conducting religious services.

When The Wave reported on the story back in June, it was not clear if the priest was still living at the rectory, as there were unconfirmed reports that the priest had left and was living with members of his family. At that time, officials of the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn told the St. Elizabeth parishioners that Father Thompson was considered a priest in good standing. Samide then submitted statements to the Queen's District Attorney's office, and a grand jury panel was selected to investigate the incidents at St. Elizabeth's.

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