A former deacon from West Chicago faces 30 counts of financial fraud after allegedly stole $315,000 from the church where he worked -- using $10,000 to buy Chicago Bears and White Sox tickets.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that George Valdez, 58, worked as a deacon and bookkeeper at St. Mary's Parish in West Chicago when the theft took place.
"Mr. Valdez betrayed the trust placed in him by his parish and his parishioners by using St. Mary's parish as his own personal piggy bank," DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said in a statement.
Aside from the pricey sports tickets, Valdez also allegedly used the funds to pay for hotel rooms, credit card bills and health insurance for his family.
Valdez's arrest comes after a string of bad news for the West Chicago parish. The Chicago Tribune reports:
In January, a Shorewood priest was accused of molesting an 8-year-old St. Charles boy while he served as a seminarian at St. Mary's in 2005. Also in January, it was announced the parish's grade school, which had opened in 1922, would close as the result of low enrollment and a deficit that reached $330,000.
"The financial problems of the school have been ongoing for many, many years," the Rev. John Balluff wrote on the church's Web site according to the Sun-Times. "The theft of parish funds certainly increased our debt in the past but had no impact on the new debt occurred this year or the debt that would have been incurred if the school had remained open."
The alleged theft took place from 2006 through 2009. The Tribune reports that church officials contacted DuPage County prosecutors after a 2009 audit found something amiss:
"During the audit, we knew something was wrong right away, and that it was bad and big" Balluff told the Tribune.
Valdez is being held on $300,000 bail and could face 30 years in jail if convicted.
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