Gambling-Addicted Priest Allegedly Stole $117K From His Church

Posted on: December 20, 2023, 04:43h. 

Last updated on: December 20, 2023, 10:14h.

A Pennsylvania Greek Orthodox priest who suffers from a gambling addiction appeared in court this week for allegedly stealing more than $117K from his church.

Father George Athanasiou
Father George Athanasiou, pictured above, appeared in court on charges following alleged gambling using church money. (Image: @thebax33/X)

Father George Athanasiou, 37, was charged in connection with the embezzlement from bank accounts belonging to All Saints Greek Orthodox Church in Canonsburg, Pa. He’s facing 223 counts of theft following his November 29 arrest.

Between April 2022 and last month, Athanasiou allegedly improperly cashed numerous checks involving church funds, authorities said. He reportedly deposited the money into his own account before withdrawing it via an ATM.

Mental Exam Ordered

During a court appearance on Monday, Athanasiou waved his right to a preliminary hearing. A judge ordered him to undergo an exam to check on his emotional health. The priest was released from custody after posting bond.

In addition, Athanasiou was suspended without pay from his assistant priest’s post after the theft scheme was discovered, according to The National Herald, a Greek news outlet.

He had a gambling problem,” Patrick Thomassey, Athanasiou’s attorney, told Pennsylvania TV station WPXI this week. “He alluded to that in the statement he gave to police. And that’s not uncommon today.”

So far, it’s not been revealed where the priest was gambling or on what he was wagering.

Athanasiou plans to repay the church.

“People are upset, but a lot of the church people are actually supporting the father, and I’m gonna tell you right now, we’re gonna pay back all this money, every cent,” Thomassey told WPXI.

“Right now, we’re not sure what the figure is. We know it’s high. We already have a lot of money ready to make restitution in this case,” Thomassey added.

Internal Inquiry

Athanasiou was arrested after an internal investigation “initiated by members of the parish leadership when certain discrepancies regarding the parish’s stewardship emerged. Community leadership then passed the information to local law enforcement, who took over the investigation, leading to Fr. George’s arrest,” according to a statement released by regional church officials, the Herald reported.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has taken over the prosecution of the criminal case, according to Pennsylvania TV station KDKA. That’s because of a possible conflict of interest. Some lawyers at the Washington County District Attorney’s Office are members of the All Saints church.

In a separate civil case, Athanasiou is the subject of a lawsuit from a Pennsylvania landlord over a $3K dispute.

The senior priest in charge of All Saints, Dimitrios Kyritsis, who began at his post after Athanasiou’s departure, said the parish appreciated the support received by regional church officials.

Kyritsis had a 30-year career in law enforcement before serving the parish. He was even an interim police chief. He also worked as a disaster chaplain for International Orthodox Christian Charities. He assisted in the Harvest Music Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas.

All Saints Greek Orthodox Church is a parish of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.