Catholic Monsignor Who Stole Money to Cover Gambling Expenses Sentenced to Federal Prison

Posted on: January 4, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: January 4, 2018, 01:49h.

Catholic Monsignor William Dombrow is headed to federal prison for the next eight months for stealing $535,000 from the Philadelphia Archdiocese to predominantly cover his gambling expenses.

Catholic monsignor gambling theft
Catholic Monsignor William Dombrow has received a new title: federal prisoner. (Image: Archdiocese of Philadelphia/NBC10/Collage:

US District Judge Gerald Pappert sentenced Dombrow yesterday in Philadelphia, but he didn’t go lightly on the once-vaunted Catholic priest. The federal judge explained in his verdict that Dombrow’s confession and willingness to take advantage of donors was a crime that needed to be properly punished.

While Dombrow, 78, admitted most of the money was used to fuel his gambling escapades, the priest also purchased dozens of concert tickets, took lavish trips, and ate at expensive restaurants.

“Someone with a weakness took great advantage of the generosity of countless people and saw an opportunity to fund a lifestyle … with other people’s money,” Pappert reasoned.

Dombrow, a self-confessed former alcoholic, expressed remorse to the judge prior to the sentencing. “All I can do is accept your decision today and move on with my life. I truly trust God with all of this,” Dombrow stated.

In addition to eight months behind bars, Dombrow has also been ordered to pay $533,258 in restitution. Since his admission of guilt last May, he’s made no effort to pay back the money he stole from the Archdiocese.

While Catholic priests have led the way in terms of religious scandals over the last few decades, they aren’t the only holier-than-thou leaders who have committed heinous sinful acts. It was just last fall that Las Vegas pastor Gregory Bolusan was accused of robbing the M Casino with a fake gun three times.

Priest Walks Into a Casino

Catholic monsignors are distinguished priests who are granted the title by a pope, typically at the recommendation of a diocese bishop.

William Dombrow held such a title, but instead of continuing the distinguished service that garnered him the monsignor title, in 2007 he began siphoning funds away from the Villa St. Joseph rehabilitation and retirement community. The monsignor was at the time in control of money that was bequest to the senior living facility.

He took trips to Aruba and Key West, and frequented Harrah’s Philadelphia, a casino that’s just a short eight miles away from Villa St. Joseph.

The bank holding the Catholic account notified the diocese after funds were being repeatedly withdrawn at ATMs inside Harrah’s. In addition to Harrah’s, Dombrow also visited casinos in the Poconos.

Courtroom Gasps

The Catholic Church has seemingly forgiven the monsignor, and that was apparent at this week’s sentencing. Several priests and nuns were in attendance yesterday, with all showing their support for Dombrow. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports they were visibly upset after Pappert handed down his verdict.

Those who urged the judge to forego prison time for the priest contested that Dombrow didn’t use all of the ill-gotten money for himself. For instance, they argued that Dombrow took other clergymen to the concerts and lavish dinners.

“He did a number of things for those priests, bringing them flowers, taking them out to dinner,” Dombrow’s attorney Coley Reynolds stated. “It’s not like he went with a girlfriend. He went with other priests. And no priest at Villa St. Joseph went without something because of the monsignor’s spending.”

Despite his admission of guilt, Dombrow has retained his monsignor title, and continued to live at Villa St. Joseph until this week. He has, however, lost all access to diocese funds.