READING, Pa. - A priest is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a church in Reading.
Berks County detectives said Richard Nachajski's money trail is seven years long and parishioners at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church had no idea.
When a parish priest leaves a church, the diocese of Allentown said it's routine to do an audit.
One of those audits was done after Nachajski left St. Anthony's in 2009. And detectives said that's when it was discovered that more than $470,000 were gone.
Nachajski was beloved by his parishioners at Saint Anthony of Padua.
"He came home from a trip and the next day he married my daughter," said Jane Urban, a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua church in the Millmont section of Reading. "And he said I had to make sure I got back here in time for it."
Urban said Nachajski was close to her family. And she knew about his trips.
Berks County detectives learned about those trips, too. They said they have pages of documentation that detail journeys to Mexico, Florida, St. Marteen, and Thailand.
"He said he had friends that were travel agents," said Urban.
But the district attorney said the money came from somewhere else.
"I think one of the most outrageous parts of this investigation was taking the funds from parishioners that died," said John Adams, the Berks County district attorney.
He said two parishioners left their estates totaling $317,000 to the church, not to its pastor. Adams said the money was put into accounts only Nachajski had access to.
"I'm certain many people of this church are troubled by the fact these funds were used for his own entertainment and not for church purposes," said Adams.
"He was a fantastic priest. It's hard to believe this is coming out," said Urban, "I still don't understand it."
Officials said Nachajski married a woman shortly after he left the church in 2009. According to court documents, she was one of the people he traveled with.
Urban said the accusations are overwhelming, but she won't let them affect how she feels about her church of 30 plus years.
"The priest represents the church, but the faith is in your heart."
Nachajski was in court Wednesday. The DA said his next day in court is February 25.
Allentown, PA 18102