updated 8/7/2006 4:49:51 PM ET 2006-08-07T20:49:51

The Rev. Bernard T. Pagano, a Roman Catholic priest wrongly accused of being the “Gentleman Bandit” who pulled a string of holdups in 1979, has died at 81.

Pagano died Aug. 1 after a stroke, according to The (Wilmington) News Journal.

He was suspected of committing nine robberies in Delaware and Pennsylvania in which a polite, middle-aged man pulled a gun on store clerks and demanded money. A woman who claimed to have been his lover told authorities he may have been the robber.

During his trial in 1979, a string of witnesses said the priest was responsible for the robberies. Then, in a dramatic turn, Ronald W. Clouser, a man from Philadelphia, came forward in the middle of the trial with a lawyer and admitted he was the real Gentleman Bandit.

Prosecutors dropped the case against Pagano and apologized. Clouser pleaded guilty and went to prison.

The story was told in a 1980 made-for-TV movie, “The Gentleman Bandit.”

After the trial, Pagano moved to New Jersey, where he was an advocate for people wrongly accused of crimes and a parish priest in New Brunswick. He retired a few years ago and had been living in a mobile home in Wind Gap, Pa.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments