April 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly clear
40°F

Ohio priest guilty of tax fraud begins prison sentence

AKRON — A Northeast Ohio Roman Catholic priest who embezzled money from an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center he founded began serving his six-month prison sentence this week in a tax fraud case.

The Rev. Samuel Ciccolini started serving time at a minimum-security federal facility in Morgantown, W. Va., the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

The 70-year-old Ciccolini, known as “Father Sam,” has been prohibited from saying Mass or hearing confessions. Bishop Richard Lennon and his advisers in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland won’t determine Ciccolini’s status with the diocese until he’s out of prison, diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said.

The priest was a beloved figure in the Akron area, and the community was shocked by his 2010 arrest and the discovery that he’d amassed millions of dollars, the newspaper said.

Ciccolini admitted he embezzled more than $1 million from the fundraising arm of the rehab center he operated, but the money was repaid once he was being investigated and he wasn’t charged for that.

He was sentenced in September for filing false tax returns and making more than a hundred bank deposits under $10,000 to skirt federal reporting requirements.

A judge initially had ordered him to serve one day behind bars, pay fines of $350,000 and pay nearly $3.5 million in restitution to the rehab center’s fundraising arm, but an appeals court overturned the decision. He was resentenced, getting a longer prison term and a higher fine.

Court records indicate federal officials were holding $3.8 million and returned those funds to the priest, the newspaper said.