06/09/2011 10:46 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2011

John Regan, Catholic Priest, Pleads Guilty To At Least $100K Collection Plate Theft

A Roman Catholic priest who allegedly stole about $400,000 from the attendees of the Roselle parish he once led pled guilty Thursday to one count of felony theft.

The Daily Herald reports that Rev. John Regan allegedly began stealing the money shortly after he started his position as the pastor of St. Walter Catholic Church in June 2006.

By July 2008, bank officials noticed strange transactions traced back to Regan and an internal audit revealed accounting irregularities at his former parish. The Diocese of Joliet subsequently removed him from his post. By that point, he had deposited thousands of dollars his parishioners contributed as collection-plate offerings into a personal account from which he allegedly made personal credit card payments, wrote checks to himself and gambled away money at riverboat casinos.

Regan was indicted in February 2009 after the results of the audit were sent to the DuPage County State's Attorney's office.

In addition to pleading guilty for one count of theft over $100,000 and another for continuing a financial crimes enterprise, Regan faces some 19 other criminal charges including money laundering. He could face a prison sentence of up to 15 years, although he will also be eligible for probation. His sentence is expected to be delivered in mid-August.

“Today, Mr. Regan pled guilty to some very serious charges,” said Robert B. Berlin, DuPage County State’s Attorney, in a statement. “He admitted he lined his pockets with money stolen from those who entrusted him with their spiritual well-being."

According to the Chicago Sun-Times , Regan gambled at least $125,000 away at the Elgin Queen Victoria and Joliet Harrah's at a time were his annual salary was only $25,000. At one point following his initial release from prison in early 2009, he entered into a counseling center to receive treatment for his gambling problem.

Regan's attorney, John Donahue, has disputed some of the amounts the prosecutors claim his client stole and may refuse "some of the allegations" when the case goes to trial.